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The Lowdown: Panthers vs Devils

by "Hockey Pat" McGrath / Florida Panthers

THE LOWDOWN is a gameday preview produced by “Hockey Pat” McGrath, a lifelong Cats fan who previously wrote for the Florida Panthers themed blog “TheRatTrick”. The contents of THE LOWDOWN and all opinions expressed therein are solely those of Hockey Pat and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Florida Panthers or Sunrise Sports & Entertainment LLC. Having said that, if you find yourself laughing or smiling as you read the LOWDOWN, feel free to thank us. We accept thank you notes, tweets and ticket purchases.

Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

Panthers Devils
Record 24-35-7 29-24-13
Points 55 71
Place 7th in Atlantic 5th in Metropolitan
Starting Goaltender Roberto Luongo Cory Schneider

The Basics

The steady battle rhythm of the Florida Panthers’ version of March Madness rattles on tonight when the team completes the second half of their road/home back-to-back against the New Jersey Devils at BB&T Center.

Coming on the heels of the Cats’ 5-4 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting, Florida’s clash with the New Jersey Devils will feature a bit of extra spice courtesy of the matchup in net: Former Vancouver Canucks teammates Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider will likely be going head to head for the first time since both left Beautiful British Columbia.

Now, let’s get to the lowdown:

Strange Times in Tampa

Last night’s game had an unusual pace to it. Each team scored twice in the first 9 minutes and the Panthers held first period leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before the Lightning rattled off four straight goals to go up 5-2. From there it looked like Tampa had the game in the bag but the Cats stormed back with two goals in 38 seconds to bring themselves within one goal with a half minute left on the clock.

While the Panthers could not get the tying goal, they did succeed in making the game exciting down the stretch, turning a three goal deficit into a one goal disadvantage in the blink of an eye.

Plenty of Firsts

Last night in Tampa, Quinton Howden scored his first NHL goal in his first game with the Panthers this season, and no Quinton, they probably won’t all be this easy….

Howden’s goal was not the only first of the night. Goaltender Dan Ellis made his first start for the Panthers, defenseman Alex Petrovic registered his first NHL assist (which was also his first NHL point) and Nick Bjugstad registered a pair of helpers for his first multi-assist game.

For the Lightning, Ryan Callahan scored his first goal since being acquired from the Rangers and Steven Stamkos recorded his first goal since returning from the broken shin that sidelined him since November.

Luongo v. Schneider III

When the Canucks and Devils wrapped up their season series in October, we thought we had seen the end of this epic matchup, but the Panthers’ acquisition of Luongo has revived the friendly battle between the former teammates.

Tonight will be the third meeting between Lu and Schneider this season. Luongo is 2-0 against his former teammate as the Canucks topped the Devils in both of their matchups this season, winning one in overtime and the other in a shootout.

Explaining the Luongo-Schneider dynamic to a non-hockey fan:

It’s like if you were dating a pretty girl and your younger friend starts hanging around and before you know it he and she are spending time on their own together and you both get to a point where it is hard to tell which one of you is dating this girl as there is no clear number one. This gets frustrating for all parties involved and eventually the girl starts trying to set you up with her friends so she can go full-time with your younger mate. It proves to be difficult for this girl to set you up with her friends and, in a surprising twist, she ends up setting your younger mate up with a friend in New Jersey so now he is out of the picture and you and your girl patch up the rifts that have been caused by the whole ordeal and mutually agree to start ‘going steady’ again. Things seem to be doing okay until another even younger guy enters the picture and your girl starts the whole process all over again. This time your girl manages to set you up with one of her friends in Florida and it makes you super happy because this girl in Florida is prettier, and smarter and just generally a whole lot cooler than your Vancouver girl. Now you are in the throes of pure marital bliss down in Florida and your old buddy wants to come down and visit with his new girl (who also seems to have this thing with an older guy who is a living legend on the circuit) so you guys set up a time and place for you both to get together with your respective dates and compete in some couples themed activities like an egg toss or scategories or a potato sack race….and it all looks something like this:

Make sense? Okay moving on….

People Don’t Forget

The Luongo-Schneider matchup is the big story heading into tonight’s game but there is also a bit of history between the Panthers and the Devils that adds to the anticipation leading up to puck drop.

Of course, what I am referring to is the Panthers-Devils seven-game epic series that took place in round one of the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Watching the highlights from that Game 7 double overtime thriller is still hard to do so whenever the Devils are in town it is nice to exact a small measure of revenge.

RED Hot Cats to Watch

Nick Bjugstad: With two assists last night against the Lightning, Bjugstad extended his point streak to four games. He has five points (0-5-5) during his current streak and has nine points (2-7-9) in his last nine games.

Brandon Pirri: Pirri scored another goal last night, his second in two games. He also added an assist against the Bolts, giving the new Panthers’ acquisition three points in his last two games.

Pre-Game Tweet of the Day

And if the Luongo-Schneider battle didn't sway you into attending the game at BB&T Center, the Cats will giving away Dale Tallon bobbleheads to the first 10,000 fans through the door. Make sure you're there early to get your bobblehead of the Cats GM.

Enjoy the game!

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