The last time we saw the Florida Panthers play a real game, they were getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two teams renew their rivalry this week — although it most definitely won’t be nearly as meaningful since these are just preseason games.
Florida and Tampa Bay kick off a week of exhibition games Tuesday night in central Florida as the two teams meet at Amway Center, the usual home of the Orlando Magic and Solar Bears.
The two teams will also play Thursday night in Tampa before concluding the preseason Saturday night at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
The Panthers ended their 2021 season with eight consecutive games against the Lightning.
After winning the final two regular season games against Tampa to earn home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, the Panthers lost in six games to a Lightning team which went on to win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season.
The Panthers ended up winning five of eight from the Lightning in the regular season which was an improvement over past years.
“We played them in the (Toronto) bubble and I don’t think we touched the puck against them,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t know how we were going to shape up against them (in 2021) and I thought we did a real good job against them in the regular season and in the playoffs. I thought we played pretty well. You learn from the best and hopefully apply it properly.”
Did the playoff battle, not to mention the fisticuff-fueled final regular season games truly make this Sunshine State rivalry a rivalry?
”It is for us,” Quenneville said.
How do the Lightning feel?
“They have 30 other teams targeting them,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, when you’re the best, everyone (circles you) on the calendar, looking for that matchup.’’
We don’t expect the three preseason games to go like the ones played a few months ago, but you can probably expect the intensity to ramp up as opposed to Florida’s previous preseason games against Nashville and Dallas.
Things usually get heated when the Panthers and Lightning meet up, whether something is on the line or not.
And, as we saw last season, playing one team a bunch of times only gets the dander up. You get tired of each other, something that happened in one game can carry over to the next.
By Saturday night, these two will be sick of one another.
“I wouldn’t say there is a lingering effect (from last season) but we know they are the defending back-to-back champs and are the best team in the league,” Radko Gudas said Monday. “We can use it for ourselves as a measuring stick. We want to perform at our highest level and make sure we’re ready for the season.”
Since this is the preseason, both teams have players on the ice who may or not be here when the season starts next week.
So you can add that element — guys trying to make a final impressions on coaches and executives — as these teams battle it out.
— Quenneville said that Sergei Bobrovsky, who started Friday’s preseason game against Dallas and played 40 minutes, will start in Orlando.
— Tuesday’s game will be broadcast statewide on both Bally Sports Florida (Panthers territory) and Sun (Lightning).
PRESEASON PANTHERS ON DECK
PANTHERS (4-0-0) V. TAMPA BAY (1-3-0) AT ORLANDO
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amway Center, Orlando
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3
- 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, Round 1: Tampa Bay won 4-2
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/Bally Sports