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Road Trip to Tampa: Does Jacob Markstrom Get First NHL Start? ... Gudbranson-Downie II Forthcoming?

RoadtripJacob Markstrom's parents are in town from Sweden. They will get a little taste of Florida on Monday morning as they pack up the car and drive across the state to watch the Panthers play Tampa Bay later that night. 

Will they get to see their son get his first NHL start?

Markstrom, 21, is expected to be in net for one of the Panthers next two games, either Monday in Tampa or Tuesday in Washington.

Coach Kevin Dineen wouldn't tip his hand on Sunday afternoon, saying he likes to ride a hot goalie – meaning starter Jose Theodore (2-1-0) – but left the door open for Markstrom by saying it might be nice for Theodore to start against his former teammates on Tuesday.

“We'll do what's best for the team,'' Dineen said.
With the quick turnaround of back-to-back games – and four games this week – there's little doubt Theodore is going to get a night off pretty soon.

One thing Dineen made clear: He has plenty of confidence in Markstrom.

“I was confident in him literally since his last exhibition game,'' Dineen said. “He played very well for us.''

Markstrom made his NHL debut with the Panthers last season, replacing Scott Clemmensen in the second period of an eventual loss at New Jersey. Those two periods of play represent Markstrom's entire NHL resume. 

With Clemmensen injured in training camp, Markstrom was promoted to a backup role with the Panthers. It's a position he's not used to, but seems to be making the most of.

Markstrom seems to understand the beneficial nature of being able to learn on the job, and isn't taking it for granted. When Clemmensen comes back off the injured list, Markstrom will likely be headed back to the minors. 

For now, however, Markstrom wants to help out the Panthers when given the green light. 

“Of course I want to play,'' he said. “The team is playing good, we're 2-1, and we have a lot of games coming up. I feel I had a great summer, a good camp and I've been helping out. I can't wait to play, but when I'm not, I'm going to work as hard as I can to help the team out.''


Rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson stands 6-foot-4 and has a massive wingspan. When he fought Tampa Bay's Steve Downie on Saturday, Gudbranson held him at arm's length and was able to land some formidable punches. 

Although Gudbranson says he tries to limit his dancing partners to those 6-foot and taller, he made an exception with the yappy Downie (listed at 5-11) on Saturday. 

When Downie started messing with line partner Ed Jovanovski, Gudbranson jumped into the fray. Both Downie and Gudbranson spent considerable time off the ice for their second period fight, with both being charged with different infractions. Downie got 17 minutes, Gudbranson 19.

Tampa Bay and the Panthers meet again Monday night – meaning we could have Downie-Gudbranson II: Battle on the Bay.

“It's part of hockey. He got in Jovo's face, he's a competitive guy. It was just a heat of the moment thing,'' Gudbranson said on Sunday. “I'm not saying I'm looking [for a rematch] because I don't think I need to. But if it's there, I've never been shy to do it.''


Monday's game will not be televised locally in South Florida as Fox Sports Florida decided not to broadcast it. Sun Sports, which covers the Lighting, will broadcast the game although it will be blacked out in South Florida. 

The game will be available locally through the NHL's Center Ice package and will be shown at local sports bars – such as Ale House, Bru's Room, Duffy's – which have purchased the package. Fox Florida will broadcast Florida's game at Washington on Tuesday. 

- Jovanovski’s power play goal in the first period Saturday was his 30th goal with the Panthers and first since scoring on Jan. 1, 1999 vs. Carolina. That is a span of 12 years, nine months and 14 days.


Where, When: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa; 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: No local TV; WQAM-560

Series: Panthers lead 54-35-10

The game: This is the 100th meeting between the two in-state rivals. The Lightning joined the league in 1992 with the Panthers following suit the next season. .-.-. Florida has won five of the past seven meetings between the two. .-.-. Tampa Bay is expected to start Dwayne Roloson in net on Monday. .-.-. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored both of Tampa's goals in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Panthers.