Thursday, October 22, 2009

Panthers at Pens PREVIEW....Gonchar injured 4-6 wks, who comes in now?

-Sergei Gonchar will unfortunately will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist. He suffered it on a David Backes check against the Blues on Monday. Gonchar's calming presence on the lockerroom and his unique offensive skill will be missed dearly. But, before the season started Mr. Ray Shero was savvy enough to pickup veteran D-men Martin Skoula. Skoula won a Stanley Cup with Colorado early in his career and has been bounced around a good amount ever since. He is a very solid two-way player who moves the puck better and plays better defense than say a Phillipe Boucher.

-Don't get me wrong, Marty Skoula is no Gonchar, but then again, who is? Lidstrom yes and maybe now Green. Tonight will be the Pens first test without Gonch and with some key player being out because of injury. Last year Gonch. was injured for a good portion of the season and the team struggled mightily. But, this is a new season and the team is playing under a different offensive system. Fleury is playing the best hockey of his career and all 4 lines are rolling so hot they make Matt Cooke's teeth look like an Aspen Dental commercial.

-The Florida Panthers, if you remember, were the team the Pens were competing with for those final playoff spots. They had two big wins against the Panthers down the playoff stretch but they weren't easy. Vokoun is an excellent goalie and those Panther role players are extremely dangerous. MSU grad David Booth had 31 goals last season but has only 2 pts this season through 7 games. Vokoun's GAA is an unimpressive 3.68 and their leader in goals is Steve Reinprecht (he's a 4th line veteran scrub). Frolik is another sneaky young player for them and he leads the team with a meager 5 pts.

-When healthy, the Panthers backend can be lethal. A
lthough it's clear they're missing Jay Bouwmeester, guys like Ballard, McCabe, Allen, and Seidenberg can play some sound 2-way hockey. Allen was injured all of last season and now he's returned, and don't forget that hipcheck Ballard threw into Geno last year in Sunrise, FL. Crosby stepped in and fought Ballard afterwards. The problem with the Panthers is scoring goals and they will have an even harder time tonight against the Pens who are not going to give away any softies. Fleury isn't in the mood and neither is the rest of the team.

-Backup goalie Brent Johnson will start in goal for the Pens. It will be his 2nd start and 1st since the 3-0 loss he suffered to the Coyotes a few weeks back. That loss wasn't his fault, it was the Pens for looking ahead to Philly the next night instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Tomorrow the Pens will host division foe's (Devils) so Johnson will get the start against the "easier" team tonight.

The D- pairings will be: Mckee - Skoula, Letang- Eaton, Orpik - Gogo

Don't be surprised to see Bourque in the lineup in place of Godard.

Don't be surprised to see Mckee block 20 shots tonight.


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