The 2021 NHL season cannot get here soon enough.
Until then, however, we’ll have the preseason to tide our collective appetites over. The Panthers have announced the following games for the 2021 preseason:
September 26 – vs Nashville (split squad doubleheader) 2 P.M. and 6 P.M.
September 29 – at Dallas 8 P.M.
October 1 – vs Dallas 7 P.M.
October 5 – vs Tampa (game played at Amway Center in Orlando) 7 P.M.
October 7 – at Tampa 7 P.M.
October 9 – vs Tampa 6 P.M.
While the preseason certainly does not offer the same level of excitement as the regular season, it still offers appointment viewing for several reasons. Here are three things to look forward to in this upcoming preseason.
Spencer Knight in Net
Regardless of Sergei Bobrovsky’s presence on the roster, Spencer Knight will likely have a large role on this team. How much he plays will depend largely on his play in the preseason. Knight only has 6 total games of NHL experience under his belt. He impressed in those four games, but the true evaluation of Knight will come over a full season of work. Knight has yet to have a full camp and preseason with the team. That extra preparation should help him, but preseason will be Knight’s first true test to see if he can split games with Bobrovsky for a full season.
The battle for the final forward spot
With the top 6 forwards all but certain, the Panthers will be unlikely to play much of the veterans during the preseason. Some of the younger forwards, however, still have something to prove. Anton Lundell, Owen Tippett, Grigori Denisenko, and Aleksi Heponiemi all have expectations to be full time NHLers this season. The Panthers do not have available spots for all of them. In fact, only one spot can be guaranteed in the bottom 6 between the four of them. While it is possible for another to dethrone a roster mainstay from last year, (perhaps Vatrano or Marchment) at least one will certainly be left on the outside looking in. Preseason will largely dictate who gets in and who does not. A true battle unfolding between the four young forwards will undoubtedly be worth watching.
Matchup with Tampa
Three straight games against the defending cup champs — Doesn’t get better than that. The teams will certainly not be at full strength for the matchups, but games between the cross-state rivals always come with a little something extra. In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet: these teams do not like each other. The games will be chippy, scrappy, and charged with raw emotion. Regardless of the stakes, these teams want to beat each other by any means necessary. Beyond that, coaching decisions will be worth keeping an eye on. How each team uses its depth pieces and adjusts strategy on special teams will likely carry into the regular season and perhaps beyond. For hockey nerds and violence buffs alike, these games will be worth watching.
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