Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers hit the ice again Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and hope to finally light up the scoreboard for the first time since the opening game of the season.
The Panthers have been outscored 18-3 over their last four games or 12 periods. The Panthers are hoping to avoid losing five straight games when they play the Lightning Tuesday night. Florida hasn’t beaten Tampa Bay since last October.
The good news for the Panthers is the team will get forward Kris Versteeg back in the lineup for the first time this season against the Lightning. Versteeg was the team’s third-leading scorer last season with 54 points and is returning from a groin injury.
The Panthers are not likely to get center Stephen Weiss back Tuesday after he suffered what’s being described as a “lower-body injury” last week. The Panthers hoped to have a top line of Weiss, Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann, but the injury bug has held that lineup to just one goal and four points.
The bad news for the Panthers is they are playing a Tampa Bay team that is red hot heading into Tuesday’s contest. Tampa Bay crushed the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 Sunday just a day after the Flyers dominated the Panthers, 7-1.
Tampa Bay is the highest-scoring team in the league at 4.8 goals per game and it’s starting front line has 27 points and eight goals this season.
Still, even with the Panthers struggling mightily out of the gate this season, the team is only two points out of third place in the Southeast Division and only three victories away from being in contention again.
Florida is entering a tough stretch of games starting next week. The Cats play four road games in seven days before returning to Florida for another three games the next week.