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Acciari Flourishing in 'Repairman' Role with Panthers

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

CORAL SPRINGS -- If you need your sink fixed, you call a plumber. If you need your car fixed, you call a mechanic. If you need your air conditioning fixed, well, you're starting to get the idea.

But when the Florida Panthers need to fix up one of their lines, they call on Noel Acciari.

"I don't know if he's our repairman, but it seems like whatever line he gets to, that line seems to have some success," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said with a smile after Friday's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "He gets some responsible shifts and matchups [in games] and usually gets the job done. The [offensive] production is a bonus for us, but he's had a special year."

In the midst of his first season with the Panthers after putting pen to paper on a three-year deal with the organization this past summer as a free agent, the hard-nosed 28-year-old forward has quickly become of the most-effective and versatile weapons in Quenneville's coaching arsenal.

Sliding up and down the lineup with ease, Acciari has also shown he can swap back and forth between center and the wing without skipping a beat. And in addition to leading the team in hits (112) and blocks (93), he's also set new career-highs in goals (20) and points (26) in 61 games.

"Playing the right way is what we're talking about when we talk about him," Quenneville said.

While Acciari has often been praised for his passion and intangibles -- he dished out 373 hits over his final two seasons with Boston, after all -- his sudden spike in offense since arriving to Florida has certainly widened eyes and turned heads around the league.

And in December, the 5-foot-10, 203-pound firecracker made headlines when he became just the second player in franchise history to register hat tricks in consecutive games, joining none other than Hall of Famer Pavel Bure, who accomplished the wild feat back in February of 2001.

Incredibly, prior to netting his 20th goal of the season in Thursday's loss to Toronto, Acciari had scored just 18 career goals in 180 games over his previous four campaigns with the Bruins.

Video: TOR@FLA: Acciari snaps puck past Andersen

"At the time, it was really exciting," Acciari said. "It was a 3-1 lead. Getting to 20 was very satisfying… I never thought with my numbers before that I'd do it. It's an awesome feeling."

Like Quenneville previously stated, it doesn't seem to matter where he's inserted Acciari into the lineup this season, as the results have been very similar. While he was playing on the right side of the second line when he recorded his hat tricks, his latest goal came as a fourth-line center.

When asked about his spike in offense, Acciari said he's benefited from a boost in confidence since joining the Panthers. In situations where he might have been afraid to shoot in the past, he's now firing away. And, of course, he also credited his teammates for finding him on the ice.

"I think I've had a great opportunity here playing with some different guys," Acciari said. "I couldn't have done it without those guys. It's been a good year so far, but the main goal is the playoffs still. It doesn't matter how well you do [personally], the main goal is to get there."

To say Acciari has played with "some" guys this season would an understatement. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, he's actually spent at least 65 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 play with eight different forwards. And on his 20 goals, 11 different Panthers have picked up at least one assist.

"Wherever I'm plugged in, I'm going to play the same game and do what I can do to help out the team and the line," Acciari said of his plug-and-play usage. "It's been working out for whatever line I've been on. Those guys help me, and I think I help them. I just want to continue with that."

Out of all the forwards on the team, no one has spent more time alongside Acciari than Colton Sceviour, who has shared the ice with him for 288:13 at 5-on-5 and 129:22 on the penalty kill.

"If you take a peek at the way that he plays -- game in, game out -- I think everyone wants to play like that," Sceviour said of Acciari. "I can't imagine he's too much fun to play against at the best of times. Then when he's also scoring, there's more pressure placed on the opponent. I think his style of guy translates well and it's something that we can all take a page out of."

As the Panthers continue their late-season push towards the playoffs, Quenneville hinted after today's practice that Acciari could once again be moving back up the depth chart when the team kicks off a very important back-to-back set against Chicago on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

But, regardless of where he lines up, the team knows exactly what they'll get from him.

"He comes to work every night," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said of Acciari. "He's definitely a guy that when you see the way he battles every night -- whether it's hitting guys, blocking shots or scoring goals -- he's definitely a guy you want to have on your team."

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