Florida Panthers Home Opener Thursday vs Blue Jackets

After an unusual schedule where the Florida Panthers opened their season Saturday, the NHL decided the Cats could use a five day break. They finally get back into action Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have already played three games.


Panthers seek to turn the tables

Florida faces a Columbus team that swept them last year taking all three games by a goal margin of 14-5, including a 7-3 loss on home ice. The Panthers have won three straight home openers and finished 27-11-3 at the BB&T Center, including wins in 14 of their last 16 games at home to end the 2017 season.

A tough loss on the road to Tampa Bay to open the season got even tougher when it was learned starting goaltender Roberto Luongo will miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee. Durability was going to be a question for the 39 year-old Luongo and this injury early in the season definitely raises some concerns.

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James Reimer is a capable starter when needed and the team brought up Michael Hutchinson from Springfield in the AHL to back him up. Hutchinson was acquired from Winnipeg after playing parts of five seasons with the Jets. Hopefully the young and talented blue line for the Panthers can give their goaltenders a little more support until Luongo is able to return.

Jackets special teams not that special

Columbus struggled on special teams last year finishing 25th and 27th on the power play and penalty kill respectively. They are also a little banged up early in the year as the lost All Star defenseman Seth Jones in pre-season due to a knee injury. Forward Brandon Dubinsky is also on the shelf with an oblique injury. The Blue Jackets come off a 5-2 win against Colorado and enter the game with a 2-1 mark. Florida lost a tough shootout to the hated Lightning 2-1 to open the year.

For the Panthers they really need to get the offense going against a Columbus team that can put the puck in the net. Discipline will be important and if there are chances with the man advantage the Cats need to capitalize. This and a solid effort on the blue line and back-checking should ease some of the pressure on Reimer.


With an exciting top six forward group there is no reason for the Panthers to keep things close to the vest. Blue Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is excellent in net, at 6’2 he covers a lot of territory. Hopefully the Panthers can make the most of their chances and use their speed in open ice, this could be an entertaining one in Sunrise!

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