Big Tilt: Game 15 vs Caps
The Panthers are back at it tonight against a formidable foe in the Washington Capitals.
The Caps are playing great hockey and their 11-2-3 record is validation of that. Sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, Washington boasts a star studded lineup led by Alexander Ovechkin, who currently has 19 points (11G, 8A) in 16 games.
Despite having some early season goalie issues, the Caps keeping finding the win column. Currently on a four-game winning streak, Washington comes into Florida a very confident hockey team. What's more, defenseman John Carlson is having himself quite the start to the season. His 23 points (7G, 16A) is not only incredible, it set a franchise record for points by a defenseman in any month - earning him "First Star" for the month of October and some whispers of the Norris Trophy headed his way.
Another guy to keep your eye on is winger Jakub Vrana, who had a hat trick on Sunday against Calgary. This is another guy on their roster who is firing on all cylinders and earned himself the NHL's second star of the week last week. Anyone with five goals in his last two games is lethal and Florida will have to take notice when he's on the ice.
Speaking of lethal...the Cats will also need to keep their collective heads on a swivel with not only Tom Wilson on the ice, but the additions of Radko Gudas and Garnet Hathaway have increased the physical side of the game for the Caps. Big Bad Boyle needs to be on patrol out there...
For me, I'm hoping for a big game from Connolly. Facing his old team should light a fire under him and I'd love to see him be an impact player and help the Cats to a convincing win tonight.
Wheelings and Dealings
Trocheck is still day-to-day and is now joined by Noel Acciari in the press box - who is currently dealing with a lower-body injury.
In Acciari's absence, Dominic Toninato has been called up to center that fourth line that has been so good/consistent for Florida.
"I'm glad to finally be here. I'm excited to hopefully get in that first game and hopefully contribute to the team." - Toninato
Toninato came to Florida on June 29 in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche and had a solid training camp and caught the eye of the coaching staff - so much so that he was one of the final cuts prior to the season's opener. Over two seasons with the Avs, he played 39 games and notched a goal and two assists. With the Thunderbirds, he's played 12 games and posted two goals and six assists. It'll be interesting to see if he can step in and play a similar role to what Acciari does on that fourth line and if he can shut down the oppositions top lines.
Q of Toninato:
"Down in Springy, I think he's been doing the same type of things that we're looking for him to do here. [His line] played against a lot of [opposing] top lines in more of a checking role. I think he brings pace. Watching him in practice today, I think he's got a real purpose to his game. He's going to get some pretty good assignments tomorrow, a tough test."
After battling back from injury, Mike Matheson is expected to be inserted back into the lineup tonight. Tough game to come back to after being out, but I'm interested in seeing how he fairs against a very strong Washington team. I thought he started to put things together this year under Q, so I'm eager to see him back out there.
Prior to getting hurt, Matheson had one assist, five hits and 11 blocked shots (I like that) in nine games, while averaging 21:16 of ice time per game.
"It's good to be out there with the team. It got a little lonely being back here when they were gone on the road trip… It's frustrating when you're not in the lineup and battling an injury. It's tough to stay positive, but the team's being doing really well. That's been great to watch."
Q on Matheson's return:
"I think he was playing good hockey prior to getting hurt. Watching him today, he looks like he's ready to go."
With Matheson's return, Stillman packed his bags an headed back to Springfield to join the Thunderbirds. Stillman is a work in progress and it felt like he started to hit his stride in his last couple games, but marinating in The A for a little longer will be very good for him.
Q on Stillman:
"Defending will be something that he'll improve on as he gets more experience in those situations. He's got some size and some willingness to him. I think that once he gets a little more familiar with the league, the pace and positioning in his own end, he'll adapt quickly."
A key for this game will be for Bob to come out with the confidence he had in the win against Detroit. Build off that victory with a strong display tonight. A win against the Capitals should do wonders for his (and the team's) confidence.
It would be great to grab these two points tonight against a very good opponent...
Let's see some good pace and keep it simple, boys!