Panthers and Islanders begin quest for playoffs
Friday, 10.07.2011 / 5:35 PM
Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
PANTHERS (0-0-0) at ISLANDERS (0-0-0)
TV: FS-Florida, MSG Plus
Season Series : This is the first of four meetings between the teams. Each team won twice in 2010-11.
Big Story : It's a showdown featuring teams that are hoping to reverse their fortunes this season, as the Islanders and Panthers finished 14th and 15th, respectively, in the Eastern Conference in 2010-11. Florida GM Dale Tallon was awfully busy this summer signing free agents, while the Isles sprinkled in some veterans and also have a healthy Mark Streit back on their blue line.
Team Scope :
Panthers : Hoping to make a push for the playoffs, Tallon brought in several talented veterans in July to give the Panthers a stronger blend. The GM shared his thoughts on the season opener on Florida's web site.
"It's an exciting time to be a Panthers fan … this is the fun part," Tallon wrote. "Now, we get to see how much of an impact players likeEd Jovanovski andBrian Campbell make on our defense and on young players likeJason Garrison, Dmitry Kulikov and (Erik) Gudbranson.
"Now we get to see four solid lines up front, filled with committed yet talented players likeScottie Upshall,Tomas Kopecky andSean Bergenheim. We get to see how much betterStephen Weiss can be when playing with skilled wingers likeTomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg."
Islanders : New York wasn't nearly as busy as Florida when the free agent market opened in July, but Isles GM Garth Snow did succeed in landing some character veterans who will only add to what was already a close locker room. Marty Reasoner was signed to replace Zenon Konopka on the fourth line, while Brian Rolston was acquired via trade from New Jersey. The Islanders also signed Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo after both attended training camp on a tryout basis.
"We've had some veterans in the past, but this year I think we've really done a great job of blending," alternate captain Kyle Okposo said. "We're just excited to get under way."
Injury Report : Goalie Scott Clemmensen (knee) and forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder) are out for Florida. … Isles rookie Nino Niederreiter is out with a lower-body injury, while defenseman Andrew MacDonald (hip) is questionable.
Stat Pack : Saturday marks Kevin Dineen's NHL coaching debut. Florida's new bench boss enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons as coach of the AHL's Portland Pirates before landing the Panthers' job. … The Islanders boast five players who scored 20 or more goals last season -- Michael Grabner (34), Matt Moulson (31), John Tavares (29), Blake Comeau (24) and PA Parenteau (20).
Puck Drop : "Our goal is to be in the playoffs. No one's giving us a chance, and that's fine. We don't need anybody to be on our side. We want it to all come internally from this locker room." -- Islanders defenseman Steve Staios