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Bobrovsky to Make Preseason Debut as Panthers Host Lightning

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

9/24/19 Morning Skate

9/24/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Keith Yandle

  • 02:05 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to make his long-awaited preseason debut when the Florida Panthers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at BB&T Center on Tuesday night.

Entering his first season with the Panthers after joining the club on a seven-year deal during free agency, the 31-year-old goaltender went 37-24-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and an NHL-best nine shutouts in his final season with Columbus in 2018-19.

Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, leads the NHL with 115 total wins over the last three seasons.

"I think he's one of those guys that's very athletic," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Bobrovsky after morning skate. "He's quick. [It's good to] get him some live action in front of him, seeing bodies and moving in tight areas and pushing and shoving around the net. That's going to help him. [We want him to] just do his thing, be comfortable and confident."

The last time the Lightning saw Bobrovsky, things didn't go so well for them.

Despite scoring a league-leading 319 goals during the regular season, Tampa, which won the 2018-19 President's Trophy with 128 points, lit the lamp just eight times during their opening round matchup against Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fueled by Bobrovsky's play in net, Columbus swept the top-seeded Lightning in four games.

"A lot of focus on goalies," Quenneville said. "They usually have a big impact on outcomes. With him playing his first game here, we're going to ratchet him up there the last three games here. A half a game tonight and then the next couple games."

Panthers players said they're looking forward to playing in front of their new goaltender tonight.

"That's very exciting," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "Just seeing how hard he's worked every day has impressed me so much. He's the first guy at the rink, the last guy to leave. He's been battling every day, whether it's just doing his own thing or working with us"

Added Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov: "We feel great. He's been unreal in the practices. His work ethic, his professionalism, everything you see him doing here is just awesome. To play in front of him is a good feeling. We're going to try and make his job easy."

The Panthers enter tonight's matchup on the heels of a 6-0 shutout win over the Dallas Stars in Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday. In that victory, Anthony Greco led the team with two goals, while Noel Acciari, Owen Tippett, Mike Hoffman and Henrik Borgstrom also touched the twine once each.

In net, Sam Montembeault, who hopes to backup Bobrovsky this season, made 30 saves.

"Last game was exactly what we're looking for," Quenneville said. "I thought we did a lot of good things. We had way more pace, way more pressure on the puck, more puck support and puck possession. If we have the puck a lot more, we have some high-end stuff on our team. When I look our lines, all four have the ability to create some offense. That's what we're looking for."

A lot of that offense this season is expected to come from Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov, who combined for two goals and four assists in their only appearance of the preseason thus far last week. In 2018-19, that lethal line combined for 93 goals and 258 points.

"Games help a lot," said Barkov, who set a single-season franchise record with 96 points last season. "You can practice forever, but you get points from the games. When you win, you get confidence and stuff like that. Of course, [the new system] took a while to get used to. But right now I think we're in a good spot. We have a lot of pace and excitement in our game."

After opening up their preseason with five straight road games, tonight's matchup will not only mark the first of five straight games against the Lightning - three in the preseason and two in the regular season - but also Florida's first home game since last season ended back in April.

Following the preseason, the Panthers will open the 2019-20 regular season on Oct. 3 in Tampa before heading home to host their own opener against the Lightning on Oct. 5 back in Sunrise.

"Obviously it's been a while since we've played here," said Huberdeau, who's coming off a career-best 92-point campaign. "It's good to see our home crowd and get things going. Since we're playing Tampa for the first time of five games, it's important to have a good start."

After being shut out in each of their first two preseason games, the Lightning have since picked up a point in their last two outings, including a 5-4 shootout loss in Nashville on Saturday. In that defeat, Carter Verhaeghe scored twice, Cameron Gaunce notched a goal and an assist and goaltender Scott Wedgewood made 39 saves.

In addition to winning the Atlantic Division last season, the Lightning also had several players win individual awards. Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender after going 39-10-4 with a .925 save percentage, while Nikita Kucherov took home the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP after posting a career-high 41 goals and 87 assists for 128 points.

The Panthers took one of three games from Tampa last preseason.

"When you go against Tampa, they're a really good team," Barkov said. "They're one of the best teams that's been around for a while. When you play against them five times in a row, of course you get to know them, and they get to know us. Those first two games of the regular season are almost going to be like playoff hockey."


-- Anthony Greco leads the Panthers with three goals in the preseason. The 25-year-old forward is entering his fourth season with the organization after setting new career-bests in goals (30), assists (29) and points (59) with the club's AHL affilate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, in 2018-19.

-- Brett Connolly, who signed a four-year deal with the Panthers this summer, has tallied two goals in two preseason games thus far. A Stanley Cup champion with Washington in 2018, he had career-highs in goals (22), points (46) and games played (81) with the Capitals last season.

-- Florida boasted the second-ranked power play in the NHL last season, owning a franchise-best 26.8 percent success rate with the man advantage. Mike Hoffman, who already has two power-play goals in the preseason, led the team with a career-best 17 power-play goals in 2018-19.

-- Joel Quenneville is entering his first season as head coach of the Panthers after being hired by the team in April. The NHL's second-winningest head coach with 890 career victories, he led Chicago to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

-- The Panthers have gone 16-for-16 on the penalty kill to start the preseason.



Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin

Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Brett Connolly

Dryden Hunt - Anthony Greco - Dominic Toninato


Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman


Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger


- Sept. 23: D Ethan Prow, D Thomas Schemitsch and G Phillipe Desrosiers were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 21: F Serron Noel was returned to his junior club. - Sept. 21: F Rodrigo Abols, F Jonathan Ang, F Joel Lowry, F Kevin Roy, F Paul Thompson, D Tommy Cross, D Jake Massie and G Ryan Bednard were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 17: F Patrick Bajkov, F Blaine Byron, F Aleksi Heponiemi, F Jake Horton, F Cliff Pu, F Sebastian Repo, F Adam Rockwood, D Brady Keeper and D Will Lochead were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 17: G Joseph Raaymakers was released from his professional tryout.

- Sept. 15: F Matt Marcinew, F Greg Meireles, F Liam Pecararo, F Matthew Wedman, D Gustav Bouramman and D Dylan MacPherson were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 15: F Cole Schwindt, F Henrik Rybinski, D Vladislav Kolyachonok and D John Ludvig were returned to their junior clubs.


When: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FOX Sports GO

Radio: NHL App

Tickets: HERE

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