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[PLAGEN'S POINTS] Back Home at the BB&T Center

by Doug Plagens / Florida Panthers

Hello again. Welcome back for another exciting edition of this!

First of all, this weekend is a huge one at the BB&T Center, and hopefully we see you out for each of the two big Panthers games: Friday against Chicago, and Saturday against Tampa Bay. The Panthers, who are 18-6-1 over their last 25 games but 0-3-1 in their last four, have an opportunity to make a major statement to the rest of the NHL this weekend against the two teams that met in the Stanley Cup Final last season. Friday’s game starts at 7:30 PM, and Saturday’s game is set for 7:00 PM.

HOCKEY ITEMS OF NOTE

  • The Panthers and Blackhawks met on October 22nd in Chicago, and the Panthers suffered a 3-2 loss. Patrick Kane had the eventual game-winner that night, while Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck scored for the Panthers. One element that the Panthers hope plays into their favor: scheduling. The Panthers will have been off since Monday night’s game against Edmonton when the puck drops on Friday, while the Blackhawks will be at the tail end of three games in four nights on the road.
  • While Tampa Bay won Sunday’s matchup by a 3-1 score, the Panthers still have two wins in three tries against their cross-state rival this season. The games have all been tight, with the two-goal margin from Sunday being the largest in any of the three matchups the teams have had this season. Neither team gives up much, especially in the first period; the Panthers have allowed just 25 first period goals through 46 games, while Tampa Bay has allowed only 30 through 46 contests. Containing Nikita Kucherov will also be a key for the Panthers on Saturday. Kucherov opened the scoring in Sunday’s game and added an empty-netter late, and he has averaged 20:24 of ice time over the two games Tampa Bay has played against the Cats this season.
  • Roberto Luongo has continued to be one of the best goalies on the planet, and history says that will continue. He has a 2.44 goals against average and a .922 save percentage for his career in the month of February, which is just around the corner. Both totals are at least tied for his second-best monthly figures over the course of his career, and Luongo holds a .922 save percentage after the all-star break during his time in the NHL. What’s more? The Panthers host Toronto on Tuesday at 7:00 PM, and Luongo sports a career 18-7-2 record against the Maple Leafs with a 2.26 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. Luongo’s seven losses to Toronto in his career are tied for the second fewest against any opponent for which he has not played.
  • At +29 in his career as a Panther, it likely won’t be long before Aaron Ekblad overtakes Martin Gelinas for the all-time Panthers plus/minus lead. Only Gelinas (+34 from 2005-07) and Paul Laus (+31 from 1993-02) have a better plus/minus in a Panthers uniform. Ekblad leads the Panthers at +17 this season.

**Stats courtesy of www.hockey-reference.com

NON-HOCKEY THINGS

  • I enjoyed walking across the famed catwalk to the press box at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. See the picture below. As far as road broadcast booth views go, I rank it up there among my favorites. The walk across the catwalk was interesting, to say the least.
  • On the recent Canadian road trip, I managed to have a smoked meat sandwich for lunch on three occasions; twice at Dunn’s in Ottawa, and once at Gruman’s in Calgary. Each time, it was great.
  • Walking back from dinner in Edmonton on Saturday, January 10th, it was -11 degrees on the old Fahrenheit scale according to my cellular apparatus. That’s your weather update. Honestly, I didn’t mind the cold. It was my first trip to Edmonton, and I really enjoyed it.
  • What’s everyone listening to these days? For some reason I’ve been on a kick of listening to Pennywise on Panthers game days for a while. I can always be reached on Twitter @DougPlagens.
  • Again, send your Tweets to @DougPlagens and yours may be read in a future broadcast or mentioned in a future blog. It has been great to see Tweets from places like Scotland, Australia, Singapore, and locales across the United States and Canada during our second intermission Twitter segments.

That’ll do it from here, folks.

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