The Panthers are riding high after a great team defensive effort led by Jose Theodore. A shutout is more than just a regular victory, and an opening season shutout is a huge boost to the confidence of a young team. It's always good to go into the video session looking at tape from a good team shutout.
Theodore wasn't expected to start the season with a 27 save shutout after looking like a deer in headlights during the pre-season. The team stood behind Jose after the pre-season, knowing his veteran experience would give him a short memory when the season started.
Theodore is not out of the woods yet, with Markstrom on the bench eager to get a start, Theodore needs to play as well tonight against a top East team in the Penguins. It would be nice to Theo to throw up another egg tonight but against Malkin and company, Theodore just needs to make the saves to keep them in the game.
Florida will need to step up the offense tonight. The Penguins are a team that without Crosby tend to pull pack and play tight D. They rely on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to withstand the attack and keep them alive.
The Pens D is not overly physical, and this benefits the Panthers who added a lot of strong forecheckers this offseason. Versteeg, Upshall, Kopecky, along with the Panthers of last year of Skille, Booth, and Matthias need to get in on the Pens' D and pin them in their zone.
If the Panthers can match the defensive effort of Saturday, tonight, cycle the puck and get a lot of shots towards Fleury there is a good shot they can start the season 2 and 0.
Panthers will likely use the same lineup as Saturday:
Forward Dadonov and defenseman Ellerby will be healthy scratches.
I expect to see both of these players get into the lineup in the next 3 or 4 games. However, Weaver and Garrison played well enough Saturday to keep Ellerby in the stands. Dadonov will likely see time when the Panthers play the Lightning on the 15th and 17th, in a game where his speed will be utilized.
The game is set to start at 7:30 and will be nationally broadcast on VERSUS network.
I predict a 3-2 victory for the Panthers. Theodore plays well, along with the entire team in the D-zone. Weiss and Fleischmann carry the offensive load in a gritty battle.