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Cats Hope To Avoid 1st-Round Storm

The Tampa Bay Lightning may not have dominated the in regular season like their cross-state rivals Florida did - but don't tell that to GM Wes Mucyk.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and their farm team affiliate Syracuse Crunch are both headed to the playoffs.

The Lightning punched their ticket late in the season via a wildcard spot. Tampa finished the season with 93 points after going 41-30-11 on the year.

What they get in a first-round matchup is the Atlantic Division-winning Florida Panthers, a team that went 51-25-6 on the season. The Panthers were the 7th highest scoring team during the regular season putting 271 pucks into opposing teams' nets, while surrendering the 4th lowest scored against total with just 232.

What hockey fans will get is The Governor's Cup for the battle of Florida. The two teams split the season series 2-2 with Florida winning the first 2 meetings by a combined score of 12-4. Tampa was able to take the next two games, but they needed OT and a shootout to do so.

Tampa Bay GM and Team President Wes Mucyk:

"Well, prior to the season, our organization laid out some goals. The guys went out there this season and were able to hit those goals. Now our young guys will be able to get some playoff experience, while me, the organization and our fans will be behind them cheering them on."

For the Lightning to have any success it will ride on the shoulders of goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood and the team's number #1 center Auston Matthews.

Blackwood finished atop many goaltending categories, while Matthews was 13th in the league in points-per-20-minutes at 1.16.

Game 1 goes Thursday night. It's Panthers Lightning. It's the battle of Florida.

The Panthers better hope that the Lightning don't strike.

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