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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, October 5th (All times Eastern)

Florida Panthers (1-0-0) at St. Louis Blues (1-0-0), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues hope to have some more early jump in their skates on Saturday night as they continue their season-opening homestand with a matchup against the Florida Panthers.

The Blues exploded out of the gate on Thursday in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators, scoring three times in the first half of the opening period. David Backes got it started 2:05 into the contest on the power play before Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie added goals on St. Louis' first six shots of the game.

Nashville did score twice to get within a goal, but Alex Steen provided more cushion with another power-play goal.

"You have to score on the power play if you want to win hockey games," said Alex Pietrangelo, who finished with two assists. "You have to take advantage of that extra guy."

Jaroslav Halak stopped 28-of-30 shots for the victory.

"It was pretty ideal the first 10 minutes," said Backes. "I don't know if we got complacent, but we played pretty well that first 10 and maybe took a step back. They're a team that just keeps coming at you. They found a couple and kind of woke us up again where we had to focus on playing our style of hockey. The result we love."

The Panthers should also be happy with the result of their season opener, a 4-2 road win over the Dallas Stars.

Playing in his first game since April of 2012, Tim Thomas made 25 saves in his Panthers debut. The two-time Vezina winner and one-time Conn Smythe recipient had taken a leave of absence from the league last year.

Thomas is looking to provide a boost to a Panthers club that finished dead last in the league a season ago.

"That was a big difference for us," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen about Thomas. "He was a guy that stood up and made the saves when he needed to and that's what we're going to need."

Aleksander Barkov, selected with the second overall pick of the 2013 draft, scored in his NHL debut, while Marcel Goc had the game-winner with 4:55 to go before adding an empty-net tally. Scott Gomez also scored.

Florida has road games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay up next before its home opener on Oct. 11 versus Pittsburgh.

The Blues have won seven of their past 11 against the Panthers, including the last two encounters.

St. Louis is 9-3-0 with a tie all-time versus Florida at home.

10/05 10:30:12 ET

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