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Soup For You: Florida Panthers @ Atlanta Thrashers ... Pick Your Section Night in ATL

Soup ATLANTA -- Pretty boring day here in the Peachtree Street/Drive/Parkway City as the Panthers are in town trying to snap a four-game losing streak in a building that hasn't treated them well in the past.

But, the Cats have played better here of late, winning five of the past seven.

Gregory Campbell is back in the lineup today after missing the past five games with a shoulder injury as well as other things. He's going minus the full shield he had to wear after taking a slap shot to the face in Washington.

“It’s tough to sit back and watch,’’ he said. “I don’t like to sit out. A guy like me is pretty pro-active. I try to do whatever I can to get back. That said, you can learn by watching and I tried to sit up high when I was out. It gave me a different perspective.’’

-- How bad is the Panthers power play right now? Pete DeBoer is looking at someone new to play on it.

“Big Mac might be next,’’ he said, joking about enforcer Steve MacIntyre.

Probably wouldn't hurt.

But the numbers are no joke, and DeBoer seems to be tiring of talking about the problems. Statistically, Florida’s special teams are the worst in the league heading into Monday’s games.

Florida’s power play entered ranked 28th in the league by scoring just 13.3 percent of the time. The Panthers penalty kill is ranked 29th, with opponents scoring 15.5 percent of the time.

Aside from Carolina, the Panthers are the only team with a power play and penalty kill ranked in the league’s bottom third; the Hurricanes’ kill is ranked 20th, their power play 29th.

Part of Florida’s problem on the power play is getting the puck in play. Too many times the Panthers have struggled to get the puck into the opposing zone as it is cleared almost as soon as it enters. That leaves the Panthers chasing instead of setting up.

"We don't have a [Ilya] Kovalchuk who can carry the puck up the ice with possession,’’ DeBoer said about Atlanta’s star forward. “We have to do things the hard way."

In the six games going into Monday, the Panthers were just 2-for-23 on the power play – both goals coming against Toronto. That was the only time the power play had multiple goals this season. The power play has been shut out 13 times.

(*) The Panthers didn’t need to make a roster move for the injured Kenndal McArdle because Campbell was cleared to play. McArdle was back in South Florida getting his injured shoulder evaluated.

(*) After facing a number of non-divisional opponents, Monday’s game kicked off a stretch in which the Panthers play three of the next four against teams from the Southeast. The Panthers had played 10 straight against non-divisional foes.

(*) Are the Panthers wore out?

The team is in the midst of a brutal stretch of games, playing at least every other day for a six week stretch. The next time the team will have consecutive days off between games is the NHL mandated Christmas break.

Since Nov. 12, the Panthers have played 10 games in 17 days, going 5-2-3 during that stretch. Starting with Monday’s game in Atlanta, the Panthers will play 14 games in the following 24 days with three sets of back-to-back games thrown in for good measure.

There’s no doubt the Panthers are struggling late in games. In the past two losses, the Panthers have been outscored 6-1 in the third by Toronto and Nashville. Last week, the Panthers lost to Pittsburgh after the Penguins scored two unanswered goals in the third period. Florida was tied 1-1 with the Predators on Saturday before they scored three unanswered to win 4-1.

Thrashers -- About five minutes into the game here and the estimated crowd is about 3,500. Asked by an Atlanta scribe if Florida's crowds are this bad, and it's safe to say -- save for a preseason game, and even then -- I have never seen The Billboard this deserted. A Marlins game? Yes. Panthers, no.

It's a Monday night and it's the Panthers in town, I get it. But...

There are six people (one rocking a Leafs jersey) in the first four rows of the section directly next to the Thrashers bench. Looks about the same next to the Panthers. The entire first row behind the penalty box is empty with about 10 people in the following four rows.

-- Not to keep harping on this, but the 50/50 raffle here tonight raised just $864. Yes, less than $1,000 for a town that doesn't have casinos. The winner took home a cool $432.