Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Nashville Predators during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Lightning and Panthers Clash

The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will face off in a battle of Florida teams on Saturday.

The Lightning have had a better start to the year, although both teams are coming off of victories heading into the matchup Saturday.

A Look Back to October

The Saturday meeting will be the second game between Tampa Bay and Florida this season. The first was hard-fought and ended with a Lightning 3-2 victory in overtime.

The Lightning’s Brayden Point led the way with two goals while Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov had two points a piece.

For the Panthers, Matthew Tkachuk tallied a goal and an assist and Brandon Montour added two assists of his own.

If the first matchup is any indicator of Saturday’s contest, expect a high-intensity, close battle on the ice.

Lightning Getting Hot

The reigning Eastern Conference champions had a slow start to the season. After a season-opening loss to the New York Rangers, the Lightning quickly found themselves with a 7-6-1 record approaching the middle of November.

Tampa Bay flipped a switch midway through the month, however, as they responded with a four-game win streak to kick off a hot stretch.

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Heading into their matchup with the Panthers, the Lightning have won nine of their last 12 games, including four big overtime wins.

Panthers Struggling to String Wins Together

The Florida Panthers have only won back-to-back games three times this year. They hope to make it four after coming off a lopsided win against the Detroit Red Wings.

With multiple three-game losing streaks so far this year, as well as a difficult time stringing together wins, the Panthers have started the year with a meager 13-10-4 record. With that record, Florida sits fifth in the Atlantic Division which currently has them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

While it is still very early in the year, the Panthers will need to see improvement in several aspects of their game if they hope to make a playoff run. They currently sit in the bottom half of the league giving up an average of 3.26 goals per game. However, pair that with 3.48 goals per game, which is 10th in the league, and there could be a lot of potential if Florida can get some consistency on defense.

Saturday’s Contest: Lightning vs Panthers

With both teams coming off of a rest day, expect both top goalies, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Spencer Knight, to get the start in goal. Knight is currently listed as day-to-day, but could potentially start after not playing since Tuesday. If he is unable to go, longtime veteran Sergei Bobrovsky will get the nod.

The Florida Panthers travel to Amalie Arena for a rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday with puck drop set for 4:30 p.m. ET.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a fourth-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, Matt has served as a sports coordinator with WRUF. He also participates in sports broadcasting, providing play-by-play for a variety of Gators sports.

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