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Previewing the East: Florida

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Ready for some hockey?

Sure you are.

The Red Wings don’t open training camp until Sept. 19 in Traverse City, but over the next eight weeks's Bill Roose will preview the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Red Wings’ Atlantic Division rivals in Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo. This week it's the Florida Panthers:

Coach: Gerard Gallant

Last Year: 29-45-8, 66 points (15th in Eastern Conference)
Detroit vs. Panthers:
5-on-5 Goals:
147 (ninth in Eastern Conference)
Power Play Efficiency:
27-for-269, 10 percent (16th in Eastern Conference)

2013-14 Stats Vs. Red Wings
Player POS AGE rank GM G A PT. GM G A PT.
Nick Bjugstad C 22 172 76 16 22 38 5 2 0 2
Scottie Upshall lw 30 179 76 15 22 37 4 1 0 1
Brian Campbell D 35 185 82 7 30 37 5 0 2 2
Brad Boyes RW 32 187 78 21 15 36 5 1 0 1
Sean Bergenheim LW 30 245 62 16 13 29 5 4 0 4
2013-14 Stats
Goalie AGE Rank GM W L OTL GAA SV%
Tim Thomas* 40 29 48 18 24 4 2.88 .908
vs. Red Wings
4 3 1 0 2.17 .919

2014-15 OUTLOOK

Regular-Season Games vs. Red Wings: Dec. 2 (at DET); Dec. 12 (at DET); Jan. 27 (at FLA); Mar. 19 (at FLA).

ARRIVALS:  Forwards Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, defenseman Willie Mitchell, and goalie Al Montoya.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Scott Gomez, Krystofer Barch and Jesse Winchester, defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Tom Gilbert, and goalie Scott Clemmensen.

PLAYER TO WATCH: In the twilight of what has been a solid NHL career, the Panthers are counting on goalie Roberto Luongo to have a bounce-back season. Last season, he posted 25 wins between Vancouver and Florida, but there’s no reason not to think the veteran isn’t capable of collecting 30 or more wins as he did the seven previous seasons before the NHL lockout. GM Dale Tallon believes that acquiring a top-end goaltender like Luongo was a key selling point in attracting prospective free agents this summer. Hard to disagree with the GM on that one.

SEASON SCOPE: Everybody gets overpaid in free agency and the Panthers weren’t bashful when it came to opening the checkbook to sign UFA centers Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen. Both veterans have been around winning organizations in the past – Bolland has two Stanley Cup rings with Chicago – and they can certainly help change the hockey culture in South Florida. The Panthers have ranked at or near the bottom in league scoring the past two season, so the addition of Jussinen, who is coming off a tremendous season – he produced 21 goals and 57 points in Pittsburgh – should bolster the offense.

In all, the Panthers signed six players on the first day of free agency, including forwards Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie, defenseman Willie Mitchell, and backup goalie Al Montoya. The 37-year-old Mitchell joins a very young, but extremely defensive unit that includes Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Alex Petrovic and Aaron Ekblad, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick.

Atlantic Division Metropolitan Division
Buffalo (July 24) Carolina (Aug. 7)
Boston (sep. 11) Columbus (Aug. 21)
Florida (July 29) New Jersey (Aug. 14)
Montreal (Sep. 2) NY Islanders (July 31)
Ottawa (Aug. 12) NY Rangers (Aug. 28)
Tampa Bay (Sep. 4) Philadelphia (Aug. 26)
Toronto (Aug. 5) Pittsburgh (sep. 9)
Washington (Aug. 19)

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