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Chicago Blackhawks Week Ahead: Stanley Cup Rematch

By Colin Likas
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Oct 15, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing

Jaromir Jagr

(68) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with center

Jonathan Huberdeau

(11) in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday: Florida Panthers at Chicago Blackhawks (CSN Chicago)

The guys I lovingly refer to as Blackhawks South come in looking somewhat similar to the Blackhawks early on. The Panthers have grabbed three wins while suffering two losses in the early going and have a good bit of youth to talk about. However, two old standbys are currently leading the charge.

Jaromir Jagr, he of 42 years and a recently recreated mullet, and Roberto Luongo, he of 36 years and one of the best Twitter accounts run by a professional athlete, have been the stars in Sunrise. Jagr has posted four goals and three assists in five games, proving age is just a number. Meanwhile, Bobby Lu has a 1.76 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in four starts for the Cats, though he somehow is just 2-2-0 in that stretch.

The story of the present and future for the Panthers, though, still revolves around the likes of past Calder Trophy winners Aaron Ekblad on defense and Jonathan Huberdeau at left wing, as well as other young guns like former Blackhawk Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov. Another ex-Blackhawk, Brian Campbell, is still hanging around on the blue line as well.

But aren’t we forgetting someone?

Right, Alex Petrovic. The defenseman dangerously put Kane into the boards last season, keeping the forward out for some time with a broken collarbone. While the Panthers and Blackhawks met up again a very short time after Petrovic’s hit, nothing really nasty came about. That could be different this time around, as hockey players certainly have long memories.

Oct 15, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie

Ben Bishop

(30) looks on against the Dallas Stars during the third period at Amalie Arena. Dallas Stars defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday: Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks (NHL Network, WGN)

A rematch of the most-recent Stanley Cup Final teams and we couldn’t get this on NBC or NBC Sports Network? Thanks, college football.

This game should be a treat, even though neither team is anywhere close to on fire at the moment. The Lightning are 1-2-0 in their last three, with the only win being a tight affair against the Buffalo Sabres — not exactly awe-inspiring stuff.

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Most of the pieces from June are still here, though there’s something known as Vladislav Namestnikov centering the fourth line. While you might think Steven Stamkos would be leading this outfit in points, it’s actually Jonathan Drouin currently at the helm. You may recall Drouin being the guy who struggled to get consistent minutes in the 2015 postseason. He apparently took that to heart, and while playing alongside Stamkos he has produced a goal and five assists. The setup has worked well for Stamkos, too, as he has a team-high four goals.

Though Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov have only combined for seven points so far, they still comprise a terrifying second line. The Lightning defense is a bit off at the moment, as Conn-Smythe-winner-had-Tampa-won Victor Hedman suffered a head injury against Dallas, and Nikita Nesterov boarded the living daylights out of Curtis McKenzie in the same game to earn a two-game ban. Ben Bishop is back in the net after his well-publicized groin issues in the playoffs, and he has taken all six starts for the Lightning so far, racking up an underwhelming .911 save percentage and 2.35 goals-allowed average.

One thing about the Lightning: They have 16 players with at least one point, versus 13 for the Blackhawks. However, Tampa has 14 with multiple points, while Chicago (as mentioned earlier) has just eight. The Lightning are clearly getting scoring from all over their lineup, and it’d serve the Blackhawks well to get that going as well, especially with this matchup on the docket.

Next: 5 Takeaways From Saturday's Blackhawks Win

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