Calgary Flames look to tame Panthers at home

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 15: Matthew Tkachuk
NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 15: Matthew Tkachuk /

While the Panthers will almost assuredly hit the links early this year, there are more similarities between Florida and the Calgary Flames than you might think.

The Panthers find themselves eight points adrift of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida are playing fluidly of late, though, winning six of their last seven and four straight on the road.

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Aside from the side’s notable gulf in the standings, the Panthers and Flames share a few commonalities: Calgary have the 25th best powerplay while the Panthers come in at number 22 on the league’s list; Florida’s penalty kill is ranked 20th; the Flames are 18th in that category; the Flames, with 2.81, are 19th in goals per game and the Panthers, with 2.89 goals per contest, are the 15th highest scorers.

As you can see, not much separates the two sides, analytically speaking anyway. However, the Flames are in a playoff position and the Panthers certainly are not. One of the principal reasons for the sizeable discrepancy is Calgary’s superior defensive record.

The Panthers, who allow 3.19 per game, bleed goals like a severed artery. The Sabres, Coyotes, Oilers, Islanders and Senators are the only teams with a worse defensive record.

Jump on Roberto Luongo early

Roberto Luongo, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 4 with a groin ailment, gets the nod in goal for the visitors. There’s only one way to find out whether the ancient netminder is showing signs of rust, and the Flames will be best served to jump on Luongo early and often.

Two and a half months have transpired since Luongo last suited up for the Panthers, so it’s crucial for the Flames to test the 38-year-old netminder from the onset. It’s the best way to capitalize on any reinforced rust, particularly against a team who are already notably deficient in the defensive end.

Next: A closer look at Calgary's six-game road trip

Look for the Flames to show their positive intent from the opening face off tonight in what will be a dominating and comprehensive hometown win.