Scouting the Enemy: Florida Panthers

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Record: 33-23-8

Leading scorers:Stephen Weiss (11G, 37A), David Booth (21G, 17A)

Blogs: Litterbox Cats

There's no way around it - the Panthers utterly destroyed the Penguins in the last meeting back on January 3.  It was one of those moments where Pittsburgh fans realized, "Wow, we really need help."  Right around that time when experts and talking heads started to overanalyze the Pens as victims of the dismal Stanley Cup hangover.  And why not?  It's not like Pitt was playing as one complete, cohesive team at the time.

Oh right - there was some kind of Sidney Crosby fight or something too.  I don't remember much about that...

Ahem.

Now, as winners of four straight, it's safe to say the Penguins are a different team.  They're 6-1-1 under interim head coach Dan Bylsma and show all new signs of offensive prowess.  Simply put: they're scoring again.  Two straight 5-4 wins over the Canadiens and Flyers, a recent 5-4 win in OT over the Blackhawks and the latest 4-1 win over the Stars are evidence to that.  When the offense isn't scoring, the defense is holding down the fort.  Marc-Andre Fleury picked up a shutout against the Flyers and allowed only one goal in each of the last two games.

Long story short, they have to keep it up.  The Panthers are just two points ahead of the Penguins in the East.  Pitt remains in a 72-point tie with the Rangers for the 7/8 seed, while Carolina is sitting back in ninth with 71 and just waiting to knock down the door.

Unfortunately for the Pens (and fortunately for the Panthers) Jay Bouwmeester remained a Panther after all of the wheeling and dealing of deadline day.  In fact, the Panthers remained the same team with the exception of swapping former Lightning Steve Eminger in place of Noah Welch.

A big two points await the Pens tonight at Bank Atlantic Center.  Time to stretch this win streak to five.

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