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Cats & Coffee: Holiday Homestand at BB&T Center

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers will kick off their annual holiday homestand with games against the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center this week.

The Panthers (12-16-5) have one game left on their current five-game road trip - a duel in the desert against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday - before they head home for a pair of pre-Christmas contests.

After starting off their trip with an exciting overtime win in Detroit, the Panthers have since lost three in a row, including a 5-2 defeat to the expansion Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Sunday.

"I think we started off the trip well with a win and felt good," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "But I think the trip kind of got away from us, so it's really important to make sure that we finish it off well."

Florida's biggest issue as of late has been its inability to find the back of the net on a consistent basis. The team has scored two-or-fewer goals in each of its last four games, while several players continue to suffer through long goal droughts.

Evgenii Dadnov and Jared McCann haven't scored in their last 10 games, while captain Derek MacKenzie is still searching for his first goal of the season. Radim Vrbata has just one goal in his past 15 games; Jonathan Huberdeau has notched one in his last nine.

So, if you're reading this Santa, the wish list this year is simple: more goals.

"It's tough to win when games when you're only going to score one or two a night," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.

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

THE GAMES

Tuesday: at Arizona Coyotes, 9:00 p.m.

Florida will wrap up its road trip with a must-win matchup against the Coyotes (7-23-5) at Gila River Arena on Tuesday. Arizona enters the week in the midst of a brutal six-game losing streak, scoring one-or-fewer goals four times in that span. In short, this is a no-excuse game for the Panthers. The Coyotes own the worst record in the NHL behind the league's 31st-ranked defense (3.46 goals allowed per game) and 30th-ranked offense (2.20 goals per game). If there was ever a game to help Florida break out of its current slump, this is the one. With a win, the Panthers would finish their final road trip of 2017 with a 2-2-1 record and a sense of hope heading into their holiday homestand.

Panthers vs. Coyotes in 2016-17: 1-0-1

TV: FSF

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

Friday: Minnesota Wild, 7:30 p.m.

The Panthers will open their four-game holiday homestand against the Wild (17-13-3) at BB&T Center on Friday. Minnesota has won four of its last six games, but enters the week trying to stop a two-game losing streak from getting out of hand. Like the Panthers, the Wild have been unable to light the lamp with any regularity in recent weeks, scoring two-or-fewer goals in six of their last eight games. For the Panthers, look for Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad to play a big role on in the offensive zone in this one, as the 25-year-old winger, bouncing between the first and second line, has tallied five points (3-2-5) over his last eight games.

Panthers vs. Wild in 2016-17: 0-2-0

TV: FSF

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

Saturday: Ottawa Senators, 7:00 p.m.

In a meeting of Atlantic Division foes, the Panthers will host the Senators (11-13-7) at BB&T Center before heading into the holiday break. After losing 12 of 13 games, Ottawa enters the week riding a two-game winning streak. In 17 games since being traded from Colorado, forward Matt Duchene has recorded just five points (2-3-5) while averaging 18:22 of ice time a night with the Senators. Like Tuesday's game in Arizona, this is another game the Panthers can't afford and shouldn't lose if they want to be considered a threat to make the playoffs. With a huge two points on the line, look for Aleksander Barkov to find his way onto the scoresheet in this one, as Florida's superstar center has notched nine points (5-4-9) over his last 10 games.

Panthers vs. Senators in 2016-17: 2-2-0

TV: FSF

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

MILESTONE WATCH

- Jamie McGinn is three points away from his 200th NHL point.

- Colton Sceviour is five points away from his 100th NHL point.

- Vincent Trocheck is three assists away from his 100th NHL assist.

CATS & COCOA

The Panthers will host their annual Cookies & Cocoa event on Friday, Dec. 22 at BB&T Center, when the Minnesota Wild make their only visit to South Florida this season. In addition to enjoying the action on the ice, all tickets purchased for this event will also include a very special pre-game holiday cooking decorating contest with, you guessed it, plenty of hot cocoa to go around. And when there's cookies and cocoa, Stanley C. Panther usually isn't far away. Click HERE to learn how you can purchase tickets.

HOCKEY FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Give the gift of hockey this holiday season.

Starting at just $99, every Florida Panthers Holiday Plan includes:

• Two tickets to three games of your choice

• Parking for each game

• Two Florida Panthers holiday-themed T-shirts

• One autographed puck

Still need to get a little more for that special someone?

Well then head on over to Pantherland on Friday, Dec. 22 and Saturday Dec. 23 to take advantage of a special 15%-off holiday sale on all your favorite Panthers gear and goodies. 

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: 2 tickets to 3 games, 2 holiday shirts, parking and an autographed puck for $99?! Don't miss out on this steal! �� https://t.co/mLlw85VntT pic.twitter.com/8itNUj7wJ3

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: Keep an eye out for us at the @CityBocaRaton Piles of Smiles Snow Day������ pic.twitter.com/pSdoMBUriw

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: A special welcome to our #FlaPanthers partners joining us at our Holiday Rink in Ft. Lauderdale tonight! pic.twitter.com/2tFrg7WDwk

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: We���re ready to go! Join us @Bokampers in Plantation to watch tonight���s #FlaPanthers game. pic.twitter.com/1QZXS9kO57

 COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

- NHL All-Star voting has begun! Vote for your favorite Panthers HERE.

 - The Panthers will retire No. 37 in honor of franchise founder H. Wayne Huizenga on Jan. 19

- Miss anything from Sunday's game in Vegas? Check out these "5 Takeaways."

- Dryden Hunt has been loaned to Springfield (AHL)

- Who is Dr. Derek Anderson? Find out in the latest edition of Petro's Blog

- A pair of Jr. Panthers are heading to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game

- How has Mike Matheson been playing this season? Find out from the man himself in our latest Panthers Q&A

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