TONIGHT'S GAME: The Florida Panthers play their fifth preseason game and the fifth of six consecutive road or neutral preseason games this evening when they take on the New York Rangers. Tonight marks the fifth of six games in eight nights for the Panthers and the first time in NHL history a hockey game will be played in the Caribbean. The Cats return to South Florida for their final two preseason games when they will face-off against Atlanta on Sept. 27 and Chicago on Sept. 28.
LAST GAME: The Panthers played their fourth exhibition game Thursday night in Chicago with the Blackhawks edging the Cats 3-2 in overtime. LW Rostislav Olesz scored a goal for the second consecutive game and RW David Booth scored his first professional goal to tie up the game at two with two minutes remaining in the third period. G Craig Anderson played the entire game against his former club and stopped 28 of 31 shots.
NEXT GAME: After tonight's game, the Panthers will travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings in their sixth and final exhibition road game. The six-game, 10-day road trip will have taken the Cats into all parts of North America and into three different time zones. The trip that started on Sept. 14th has taken Florida through Vail, CO, Calgary, AB, Edmonton, AB, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, San Juan, PR and finally Detroit, MI.
SERIES HISTORY: The Panthers and Rangers met four times last season with the Cats going 1-2-1 against New York. In their franchise history, the Panthers are 19-26-6-1 against the Rangers. The two teams will meet again four times during the regular season, the first time in Madison Square Garden on Oct. 25.
STRONG FINISH: The Panthers ended the 2005-06 schedule going 3-0-2 in their last five games. D Mike Van Ryn ended the Cats season on a high note, scoring two goals including the OT game-winner in the final game of the season against Atlanta. Two games prior, it was C Joe Nieuwendyk who had the OT winner as the Panthers won in Ottawa 5-4.
FREE AGENT FRENZY: The Panthers were very active in free agency, acquiring two key players for the upcoming season. D Ruslan Salei (from ANA) and G Ed Belfour (from TOR) bring a combined 201 games of NHL playoff experience. Belfour has accumulated the second most wins in NHL history and Salei has played in more games then any other defensemen selected in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
DOUBLE DUTY: Cats bench boss Jacques Martin took over the duties of General Manager on Sept. 3, 2006. He is currently the only head coach in the NHL to serve as both coach and General Manager. Martin has 444 career coaching victories, second most among active NHL coaches.
ELDER STATESMAN: C Olli Jokinen is now the longest tenured Panther. Jokinen was traded to Florida in June 2000. In five seasons with the Cats, he has scored 115 goals and 142 assists, while being named captain of the team prior to the 2003-04 season. His 88 points last season marked the third highest single season total in Panthers history.
LEADERS: C Stephen Weiss (3-1-3), LW Rostislav Olesz (2-2-4) and C Chris Gratton (0-4-4) led the Panthers in points during the 2005 preseason. All three players are back with the Cats again for the 2007 preseason. Gratton also lead Florida with 18 PIM during last year's preseason games.
GET YOUR TICKETS NOW: Tickets are on sale for Cats home games including great season, mini and group ticket packages. Call (954) 835-PUCK to reserve your seat. The Panthers drop the puck for the 2006-07 regular season on Oct. 6 when they face-off against the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. at the BankAtlantic Center.