Panthers Host Tampa

Sunrise, Florida - Swooning entering the final stop on a five-game road trip, the Florida Panthers bounced back with a victory in their last game.

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Now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping to steal a page from their rivals' script.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Florida -120 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida -120 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

With just one win in the first four games of their trip - and an angry coach after their most recent defeat - the Lightning will look to head home on a high note as they visit their intrastate rivals for a matchup of the NHL's two lowest-scoring teams on Wednesday night.

The Panthers (5-8-1) had lost six straight games when they visited Anaheim on Sunday night, and even after falling behind less than two minutes into the game, they responded with a natural hat trick from David Booth for a 3-1 win.

Goalie Craig Anderson, making just his fourth start of the season, stopped 44 shots as Florida won for the first time since Oct. 24. Thanks to Booth's first career hat trick, the Panthers also scored three goals for just the second time in their last seven games.

"We're a work in progress," first-year Florida coach Peter DeBoer told his team's official Web site. "We knew we'd have some growing pains. We have some new players, new coaches and a new system. ... But the most important thing for me is that I believe we're heading in the right direction."

Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose didn't say the same on Monday, when the Lightning (5-5-4) fell behind 3-0 in the first period en route to a 4-2 loss at Washington.

The game was goalie Olaf Kolzig's first against his former team after playing for the Capitals for nearly 20 years, and Melrose wasn't pleased with his team's effort in front of the veteran netminder.

"After the game, I told the guys, 'Why try when you are down 3-0? Why do it then?'" Melrose said. "It was very disappointing to play like that in front of Olie in Washington. ... Probably the biggest game he's played in years and they show up and do that for him. Those guys should all be hiding their eyes when they walk by Olie Kolzig."

Lightning starter Mike Smith could be back in net on Wednesday, but with a 2.33 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this season, Smith hasn't been Tampa Bay's problem.

The Lightning rank last in the NHL in goals (30) and goals per game (2.14), and they've scored two goals in each of their last three games. Star center Vincent Lecavalier has no goals and one assist over that span.

The Panthers haven't been much better, scoring 31 goals (2.21 per game) this season. Florida, which is 3-2-0 at home this season, is hoping its offense will get a boost from the possible return of Cory Stillman, who leads all Panthers forwards with nine points.

Stillman, who has missed the last three games with a facial injury, had a career-high 80 points for Tampa Bay during the 2003-04 season, when the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The clubs will open their season series after each went 4-4-0 against the other in 2007-08, when both teams missed the playoffs. Tampa Bay, which finished tied for last in the league with 71 points last season, went 1-3-0 at the BankAtlantic Center.

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Posted: 11/11/08 11:45PM ET


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