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The Final Stretch

by Mike Lewis / Florida Panthers

The Panthers are closing in on the final week of the preseason after falling to the Nashville Predators in both double header contests on Saturday.

Heading into the last three exhibition games before the regular season starts up, the Panthers began piecing the opening night roster together by sending 12 players to the San Antonio Rampage for their training camp, which begins today.

F Connor Brickley, G Sam Brittain, G Michael Houser, F Steven Hodges, D Josh McFadden, F John McFarland, F Brett Olson, D Jonathan Racine, F Logan Shaw and D Shayne Taker were all assigned to San Antonio, while F Joe Basaraba and D Joshua Brown were invited to camp as well, after being released from a Professional Try Out and Panthers Training Camp respectively.

More roster cuts will be inevitable, which will push each player currently on the team and raise the competition level to be a Panther this season. Still searching for their first win of the preseason, the Panthers final week of exhibition games can be a proving ground for some of the players who survived the first cut like F Quinton Howden, F Vincent Trocheck, D Aaron Ekblad and D Alex Petrovic as they look to become full-time NHLers. It also breeds competition for the veterans on the team as they try to make a strong impression on new Coach Gerard Gallant.

Tonight, the Cats head to Lone Star State to take on the Dallas Stars for their second meeting of the preseason. The Panthers opened their preseason at home against Dallas, but were unable to top the Stars in a shootout. D Shane O’Brien, F Dave Bolland and F Brandon Pirri scored for the Cats while G Michael Houser stopped 19 of 20 shots in the third and overtime periods.

Pirri leads the Panthers in goals as he rides a two-game goal scoring streak heading into tonight’s matchup. After a go-ahead goal he scored against Dallas, his goal against Nashville tied the game and forced the two teams to head to over time. Pirri had 14 points (7-7-14) in 21 games for Florida last season, finishing the season with seven points in seven games (4-3-7).

Following tonight’s contest the Cats head back to South Florida as they prepare for a home-and-home with their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Thursday, Oct. 2, the Panthers host the Lightning at the BB&T Center, before they close out their preseason at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay on Saturday, Oct. 4. The two clubs open the regular season against one another in Tampa Bay on Thursday, Oct. 9.

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