Lightning gameday: Panthers again?
The Lightning begin its 25th season tonight with a familiar foe. A really familiar foe: The Panthers, who are not only a division rival but a team the Lightning played three times last week and will play again Saturday night in Sunrise.
In high school this would be known as going steady.
Both teams look to rebound from disappointed seasons since much was expected of each last year and neither qualified for the playoffs.
Bob Boughner, the Panthers first-year head coach, comes to Sunrise after two years as an assistant with San Jose. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said to expect the Panthers to incorporate some of the Sharks game in their own since the Sharks reached the postseason twice during Boughner during his two seasons there.
Of more concern to Cooper is the way the Lightning played against the Panthers during the preseason.
“We played them three times and we came up empty all three,” Cooper said. “You can say, we’ll neither team had all their players, but we still went 0-3 against them, and we’ve got to obviously improve on that. It’s two teams that probably did not meet expectations last year. We’re a team coming off a fairly recent Stanley Cup run and an Eastern Conference final run, and they’re a team coming off a division championship, so you know there’s going to be good players on the ice. We got to find a way.”
C Alexsander Barkov and LW Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers top two scorers, are reunited after Huberdeau played only 31 games last season because of a lower body injury.
Barkov had four assists against the Lightning last week. Huberdeau had three goals and two assists.
“(Barkov has) got a really good chemistry with Huberdeau, and they’ve shown they can score in the past, and they started doing it again in the preseason,” Cooper said. “Huberdeau is going to be healthy. It was unfortunate what happened to him last year. Probably a little bit renewed energy in those two, and if we’re going to have success, we’re going to have to find a way to stop them.”