Columbus (10-21-3) at Florida (12-17-2)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Sunrise, FL
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Sat Jan 3, 2004
  • TV: FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Gerard Gallant will try to take another step toward getting a full-time gig.

Fresh off a win in his debut as interim coach, Gallant will try to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a second straight victory when they travel to Florida to play the Panthers.

Marc Denis made 37 saves to help Columbus beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 on Friday in Gallant’s first game since replacing Doug MacLean, who stepped down on Thursday.

“From 11 o’clock yesterday morning until before the puck dropped, I was nervous,” Gallant said. “I was butterflied and I was a little scared. It was really good to get the puck dropped and get the game going because that’s what I enjoy most about hockey is the game itself and it went real well.”

Gallant managed to get what took MacLean—also the team’s president and general manager—15 games to accomplish—a win on the road. The Blue Jackets are 2-11-1-2 away from Nationwide Arena.

“With everything that’s happened around our team the last couple of days, this was a great way to start something new,” Denis said. “Obviously it’s not the whole battle—there’s a long way to go—but you’ve got to start somewhere.

“We said we’d make yesterday Day 1 with a change behind our bench and hopefully we’ll have a different philosophy and a different feeling about this group.”

Rostislav Klesla scored his first goal in 35 games for Columbus, and Manny Malhotra added an empty-net goal with 1:10 left for the Blue Jackets.

The Panthers had their six-game home unbeaten streak (3-0-3) snapped with a 2-1 loss to visiting Philadelphia on Friday. Rookie Nathan Horton scored for the Panthers, who also saw their three-game overall unbeaten streak (1-0-2) end.

Roberto Luongo made 21 saves in the loss for Florida, which starts a four-game road trip after this game.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 1): Blue Jackets - 27 points, 5th place, 24 PB, Central Division. Panthers - 35 points, 3rd place, 8 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Rick Nash, 23 goals and 27 points; Todd Marchant, 16 assists; Jody Shelley, 110 PIM. Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 12 goals; Viktor Kozlov, 14 assists; Jokinen and Kozlov, 23 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 1): Blue Jackets - Power play: 13.8 percent (26 for 189), 22nd (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent (122 for 147), 21st. Panthers - Power play: 17.3 percent (23 for 133), 9th. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (140 for 171), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Denis (8-18-3, 2 SO, 2.52 GAA); Fred Brathwaite (2-6-1, 0, 2.93). Panthers - Luongo (10-16-9, 2, 2.36); Steve Shields (2-3-0, 0, 3.58).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Blue Jackets, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 19, 2002; Blue Jackets, 4-1. David Vyborny scored the eventual game-winner for Columbus.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 2-11-1-2 on the road; Panthers - 7-8-5-1 at home.

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