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Cats & Coffee: Four Big Games; Pride Night

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment, presented by Koffee Kult, in which we serve up an exciting look at what's on deck for your Florida Panthers. Like our friends at Koffee Kult, this forecast serves up only the best -- so sit back, sip and enjoy our latest brew of news, notes and information!

It doesn't get any easier from here on out.

After shaking off the rust in their first game back from the break, the Florida Panthers will dive headfirst into one of their most-difficult stretches of the second half this week, starting with an incredibly important divisional matchup against the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

Winning six of their last seven games, the Panthers (28-17-5) currently trail the Maple Leafs by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have also competed in two fewer contests.

"Everybody's looking for the same two points," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after Sunday's practice in Toronto. "It's a huge four-point swing. Let's be ready for it knowing that, hey, they've been coming out of the break on a good note."

Following their tilt in Toronto, the Panthers will battle three more current playoff teams.

First, they'll close out a back-to-back set and also wrap up a three-game road trip with a visit to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. After that, they'll return home to South Florida to host the Vegas Golden Knights and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

And with 32 games left to play, the eight points up for grabs this week couldn't be any bigger.

"We want to make sure that we recapture the momentum we had going into [the break]," Quenneville said. "There's a lot at stake here. Let's be ready to play hard from start to finish."

Here's everything you need to know for the week ahead…

THE GAMES

Monday: at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:00 p.m. ET

The Panthers will look to move back into a playoff spot when they visit the Maple Leafs (28-17-7) at Scotiabank Arena on Monday. Entering the week, Florida trails Toronto by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand. The Maple Leafs have won each of their last three games, including a 2-1 victory in overtime against Ottawa on Saturday. Auston Matthews leads the team in goals (36) and points (61), while Mitch Marner has the most assists (37). During Toronto's three-game winning streak, Matthews has racked up two goals and one assist. For the Panthers, look for Evgenii Dadonov to make something happen on offense. Over his last 11 games, the 30-year-old winger has found the back of the net nine times, pushing his team-leading goal total to 23. In the only previous meeting between the two clubs this season, the Panthers filled up the scoresheet in an 8-4 win over the Maple Leafs in Sunrise on Jan. 12.

TV: FSF, ESPN+

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 640 WMEN (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST); SIRIUSXM STREAMING 932

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

Tuesday: at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:00 p.m. ET

The Panthers will look to cool off one of the hottest teams in the league when they wrap up a back-to-back set against the Blue Jackets (28-16-9) at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday. Sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division, Columbus has won nine of its last 11 games, including a 4-3 win at Montreal on Sunday. Filling in for injured starter Joonas Korpisalo, backup goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has been spectacular in net as of late. On a personal six-game winning streak, the 25-year-old has posted a .959 save percentage with three shutouts in that span. Pierre-Luc Dubois paces the Blue Jackets with 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists), while Zach Werenski ranks first among the league's defensemen in goals with 15. For the Panthers, keep an eye on Frank Vatrano in this matchup. The 25-year-old winger has been producing at better than a point-per-game clip over his last 11 games, registering seven goals and five assists in that span. The third and final meeting between the two clubs this season, Florida has gone 1-1-0 against Columbus.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 640 WMEN (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST); SIRIUSXM STREAMING 932

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

Thursday: Vegas Golden Knights, 7:00 p.m. ET

After wrapping up their road trip, the Panthers will return to the Sunshine State to kick off a brief two-game homestand against the Knights (27-20-7) at BB&T Center on Thursday. Vegas has dropped six of its last nine games, but closed out last week with back-to-back wins at Carolina and Nashville on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to move back into third place in the Pacific Division. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty sit atop the Knights scoring chart with 48 points each; Pacioretty is also tied with Reilly Smith for the most goals on the team with 21, including lighting the lamp five times over his last 11 games. In their first tilt against Vegas this season, look for Jonathan Huberdeau to have a big night for the Panthers. The 26-year-old winger not only leads the team with 65 points (18 goals, 47 assists), but has also notched 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) over his last 18 games. In four career contests against the Knights, he has five points.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 640 WMEN (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST); SIRIUSXM STREAMING 932

In-Arena Activations: 50/50 Raffle; Bang Energy Takeover Night; $5 Beer Thursday

Tickets: HERE

Saturday: Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:00 p.m. ET

The Panthers will close the book on an abbreviated homestand when they host the Penguins (33-14-5) at BB&T Center on Saturday. Occupying second place in the Metropolitan Division, Pittsburgh has won eight of its last 10 games, including a 4-3 win at Washington on Sunday. Since returning to the lineup from an elongated stint on injured reserve, Sidney Crosby hasn't skipped a beat. Over his last seven games, the Penguins captain has notched 12 points (four goals, eight assists) - tied for the second-most in the league in that span. In addition to Crosby, Evgeni Malkin leads the team in scoring with 54 points (16 goals, 38 assists), while Bryan Rust has accumulated a team-best 22 goals. For the Panthers, look for Keith Yandle to find a way to get onto the scoresheet in this one. Ranking sixth among the league's defensemen in scoring with 39 points (five goals, 34 assists), the 33-year-old does most of his damage while manning Florida's sixth-ranked power play (23.6 percent). In fact, his 20 points on the power play are tied for the third-most among the league's rearguards and also place him second on the club overall.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 640 WMEN (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST); SIRIUSXM STREAMING 932

In-Arena Activations: 50/50 Raffle with Guaranteed Pot of at Least $25,000; NBC 6 Takeover Night; Pride Night; Territory Takeover (Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors)

Tickets: HERE

MILESTONE WATCH

- Keith Yandle is one goal away from his 100th NHL goal.

- Brett Connolly is five goals away from his 100th NHL goal.

- Aaron Ekblad is one point away from his 200th NHL point.

- Aleksander Barkov is one point away from his 400th NHL point.

- Anton Stralman is one game away from his 800th NHL game.

- Mark Pysyk is two games away from his 400th NHL game.

- Evgenii Dadonov is five point away from his 200th NHL point.

PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT

Karch Bachman is ending his collegiate campaign with a bang.

In the midst of his senior season at Miami University, the 22-year-old forward currently ranks second on the club with a career-high 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 26 games. Prior to this season, his old career-best total was 16 points, which he tallied each of the last two years. From Nov. 22 - Jan. 10, he strung together an eight-game point streak in which he posted two goals and nine assists. Then, just one game after having that torrid stretch come to an end, he put up a whopping four assists to help the RedHawks earn a 4-4 tie at North Dakota on Jan. 17.

Bachman was originally selected by the Panthers in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.

PRIDE NIGHT

The Panthers will host their fifth-annual Pride Night at BB&T Center on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Presented by NBC 6, the evening will kick off with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis dropping the ceremonial first puck before the Panthers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. In warmups, numerous players will also use special rainbow pride tape on their stick blades.

During the game, fans can head over the Florida Panthers Foundation table outside of Club Lexus to purchase colorful mystery Pride Night pucks signed by players such as Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. All proceeds from these sales will benefit the Foundation.

To purchase the Pride Night ticket package and receive a Panthers Pride Towel, click HERE.

HILTON GIVEAWAY

This is your last chance to win an incredible getaway!

Right now, fans can enter to win a trip to see the Panthers battle the Bruins in Boston on March 28. In addition to a pair of tickets to the game and round-trip airfare for two, the winner will also be awarded three nights of accommodations at the Hilton Boston Downtown-Faneuil Hall Hotel.

The contest ends on Feb. 6, so make sure and enter as soon as possible by clicking HERE.

CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK

The Panthers recently teamed up with Ultimate Software to host a fun afternoon of skating for members of the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County at BB&T Center. 

Video: Ultimate Software Skate

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

Tweet from @Miamilighthouse: Thank you to the @FlaPanthers for inviting #MiamiLighthouse teenage students to experience a hockey game! Prior to watching the game, our students learned about career opportunities on a professional sports team and how to successfully run a professional sports franchise. pic.twitter.com/bRH1xH0dkB

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: New year, new gear & a new #LearnToPlay class������🏒�� https://t.co/3YWiVchRIQ pic.twitter.com/O9XjgCZtCV

Tweet from @VVAmerica: Former @VVAmerica President Tom Corey was honored by the @FlaPanthers as their military hero on Sunday at the "Heroes Among Us" ceremony.Pictured: Tom Corey, Marc Goodell (President of VVA Chapter 25), and Jerry Klein (VP Chapter 25).Thank you to the @FlaPanthers! pic.twitter.com/2lkAYHaSgc

TERRITORY TALK

On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, NHL.com columnist Nick Cotsonika joins the show to talk about the Panthers' playoff push, the All-Star Game's return to Sunrise and more!

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- The Panthers have been enjoying a new victory song this season.

-- Flex Plans let you personalize your own ticket package for the playoff push. 

-- You asked, he answered. Check out the last "Panthers Mailbag" featuring Aaron Ekblad.

-- Enter the "Double Date Sweepstakes" for a chance to win the perfect Valentine's Day prize!

-- The Panthers are hosting their 1st Annual NHL20 Tournament!

-- Florida opened its first practice after the break with a bang.

-- Get in in the game with the "Learn to Play" program.

-- Evgenii Dadonov has seen an uptick in his numbers on the power play this season.

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