Jan 23, 2016; Sunrise, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) skates with the puck against Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Lightning and Panthers Face Off in NHL Season Opener

The NHL season begins tonight with a game at 7 p.m. However, Florida teams will start their season on Saturday with a match-up between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Coming off finishing first in the Atlantic Division with a 54-23-5 record, Tampa Bay looks to be the best team in the East, at least NHL analyst Barry Melrose thinks so. Former Rangers captain, Ryan McDonagh is looking to come back after a tough season ending last year.  They are also looking to improve their special teams.

On the offensive side of the puck, they continue to have players that can put a lot of points on the board. Along with arguably having one of the best goalies in the league, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Melrose predicted Tampa will win the East.

Florida Panthers

From just missing the playoffs last year with a 44-30-8 record, the Panthers are looking to change that this season. Aleksander Barkov and Johnathan Huberdeau are now a year older and Mike Hoffman is a new addition. Barkov and Huberdeau both had 27 goals in the past season and also led the team in points. Hoffman was traded from the Ottawa Senators where he scored 22 goals and had 56 points.

“This guys a sniper, he plays with these young forwards,” Melrose said.

It will also be interesting to see the number of games Roberto Luongo will be able to play in. Luongo only played in 35 games last year due to injury.

“Florida is going to be a fun team to watch,” Melrose said.

Games Tonight

The Florida teams don’t begin their season until Saturday, but matchups begin tonight with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. The defending Stanley Cup champions the Washington Capitals take on the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. The night ends with the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks at 10 p.m.

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