GAME DAY: Panthers at Lightning 2/19/11

Panthers (24-26-7) at Lightning (34-18-6) 7:30 p.m.

Eric Brewer will begin his Lightning career thrown into the Battle of Florida as the Panthers come to the Bay.  The teams have met three previous times this season, with Florida taking the October 16th game 6-0 and the November 27th game 4-3 in a shootout.  The Lightning won the January 11th showdown 2-1 in a shootout.

Both the Panthers and Lightning are coming off home losses to the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings beat the Cats 4-3 last night while it was a more emotional 6-2 loss for the Lightning and Steve Yzerman on Thursday.

It was a disappointment for the Lightning, who were looking at this game as a way to gage how they stacked up to the league’s elite.  It was the second “measuring stick” game in a row for the Bolts, who suffered a 4-3 OT loss on Tuesday at the hands of the conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers.  However, they remain second in the East and four points ahead of the Washington Capitals for the division lead.

The Panthers once had hopes of sneaking into the playoffs, but those hopes are all but destroyed.  Their recent 3-5-2 slide has dropped them to 12th in the conference and 9 points out of 8th.  They lost four times in the five game homestand they just closed out.  It will be an uphill climb tonight for the Cats, who are without young stars Dmitry Kulikov and Evgeny Dadonov.

As the epic homestand continues for the Lightning, they are looking to build upon their mediocre 5-3-1 record.  That’s fine, but if they can take advantage of these last three games, beginning tonight, they could really distance themselves in the playoff and divisional races.

The trade for Brewer was a trade to upgrade playoff play, and it will do just that.  We’ll begin to see where Brewer fits in to the big tonight.

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