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Cats & Coffee: Marchessault on Fire

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 feel like momentum is on their side as they prepare to embark on this week's four-game road trip after an extremely impressive 7-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the BB&T Center on Sunday. 

"I think everybody should be feeling good right now," Panthers winger Jonathan Marchessault said post-game. "That's not just any team on the other side that we just beat. It was an amazing game tonight for everyone."

Although 10 different Panthers found their way onto the scoresheet in Sunday's big win, it's safe to say that none of them did it in quite as exciting a fashion as Marchessault, who recorded the first hat-trick of his career by notching his 26th, 27th and 28th goals of the season in victory.

"It's been a rollercoaster, up and down all year," said Marchessault, who recorded Florida's first natural hat trick since Steve Reinprecht on Oct. 30, 2009. "I think last game we played good and this game we played good. Hopefully we can get help a little bit on the other side with the other teams. On our side the only thing we can do is win some hockey games."

With eight games remaining in the regular season, Marchessault has a chance to become Florida's first 30-goal scorer since David Booth tallied 31 in 2008-09. 

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

THE GAMES

Monday: at Buffalo Sabres, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will hope that their offense stays hot when they kick off a four-game road trip against the Sabres (31-32-12) at KeyBank Arena on Monday. In the first of four must-win games this week, the Panthers will need their top-ranked penalty kill (86.1 percent) to be on its toes, as Buffalo boasts the league's top power play (24.5 percent). On offense, look for Jonathan Huberdeau to stay hot for the Panthers, as the 23-year-old winger is coming off a season-high four point (1-3-4) game against the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Panthers vs. Sabres this season: 1-1-0
TV: FSF
English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) *WAXE Start Time 8:00 PM

Tuesday: at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m.

After a blowout victory in their last meeting earlier this month, the Panthers will undoubtedly be looking for a repeat performance when they visit the Maple Leafs (35-24-15) at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. The Panthers, who defeated Toronto 7-2 on March 14 at the BB&T Center, will need to be very responsible in their own zone in this contest, as the Maple Leafs currently own the league's sixth-ranked offense (3.05 goals per game). A member of the Maple Leafs from 2010-16, look for James Reimer to come up big against his former team in net, as the 29-year-old goaltender is coming off his first shutout of the season after stopping all 25 of Chicago's shots in Sunday's 7-0 victory. 

Panthers vs. Maple Leafs this season: 1-2-1
TV: FSF
English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) *WAXE Start Time 8:00 PM

Thursday: at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.

In the first of two meetings within the next two weeks, the Panthers will visit the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens (42-24-9) at the Bell Centre on Thursday. Montreal, which leads Ottawa by three points for the division lead, currently owns the league's sixth-ranked defense (2.47 goals allowed per game), thanks in large part to the stellar play of goaltender Carey Price, who has won 9 of his last 11 starts. In this contest, look for Aleksander Barkov to be the one who likely solves Montreal's defense, as the 21-year-old center has tallied five points (2-3-5) over his last three games.

Panthers vs. Canadiens this season 1-1-0
TV: FSF
English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) *WAXE Start Time 8:00 PM

Saturday: at Boston Bruins, 1:00 p.m.

The Panthers will look to get their first victory against the Bruins (39-30-6) this season when they visit the TD Garden on Saturday. The Panthers, who trail Boston by seven points for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand, should have a golden opportunity to put up some offense in this contest, as the Bruins have allowed three-or-more goals in four of their last five games. With that in mind, look for Jaromir Jagr to play a big role in lighting the lamp for the Panthers, as the 45-year-old legend has recorded a pair of multi-point performances over his last five games. 

Panthers vs. Bruins this season 0-3-1
TV: FSF
English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys)

AUTISM AWARENESS NIGHT

The Panthers and Autism Speaks are teaming up with South Florida Ford to host a special Autism Awareness Night on Monday, April 3, when the Panthers host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m at the BB&T Center.

In addition to the action on the ice, the Panthers will also be offering a quiet, private sensory-friendly lounge for families to enjoy throughout the evening. A portion of all ticket sales will go to Autism Speaks and buyers of thespecial ticket package will also receive an Autism Speaks/Panthers T-Shirt.
 
As a show of solidarity, Panthers social media accounts will also be turning blue in honor of National Autism Awareness Day's #LIUB campaign. Additionally, the evening's game presentation will also be featuring #LIUB and Autism Awareness facts.
 
Fans are encouraged to use #Ford4Autism throughout the night on April 3, as Ford will donate $5 to Autism Speaks each time the hashtag is used. Fans can also use the hashtag #LIUB for Light it Up Blue.
 
In September, Broward's Autism Speaks Walk will be held at the BB&T Center. 

Fans can register for the walk by clicking HERE.

FLOORBALL FOR EVERYONE

No ice? No problem!

In an effort to introduce more children to the sport of hockey, the Panthers recently announced a new floorball program for local schools. With 44 Miami-Dade county schools expected to participate, the program is scheduled to begin this upcoming year.

In addition to a teacher-training day at the BB&T Center, the Panthers will also be providing schools with all necessary equipment, including nets, sticks, balls and instruction manuals and posters for school use.

With this new program in place, physical education teachers will learn how to properly build leagues and integrate floorball into their after school programs. 

THORNTON'S SPECIAL VISIT

When he's not punishing opponents on the ice, there's a good chance that Panthers enforcer Shawn Thornton is turning frowns upside down all around South Florida.

Recently, Thornton and UFC fighter Jessica Jag Aguilar chose to visit a local children's hospital in order to spread some cheer and hand out gifts to a large group of kids that really needed it. 

Keep up the good work, Thorty!

Tweet from @ThorntonFDN: Thankful to be able to bring a few gifts and spend time with some great kids from Joe DiMaggio��� https://t.co/GlodQrrAIR


JOIN OUR HOUSE

It's time to commit to the Cats again, join #OurHouse for the 2017-18 season.

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: This is #OurHouse.You're Invited: https://t.co/fwYZRfo4Y6 pic.twitter.com/MmJlIXn1g9

MILESTONE WATCH

- Panthers forward Shawn Thornton is one game away from 700 for his career.

- Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is two assists away from 100 for his career.

- Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk is one game away from 200 for his career.

- Panthers defenseman Jason Demers is three games away from 500 for his career.

- Panthers forward Thomas Vanek is five points away from 700 for his career.

- Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo needs two victories to surpass Curtis Joseph for sole possession of fourth place on the NHL's all-time wins list.  

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

- Several of your favorite Panthers prospects, including 2016 first-round pick Henrik Borgstrom, are currently battling for an NCAA championship. Read up on that and more in our latest prospect report. Read more here.
 
- Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the Panthers with a career-high 28 goals, is happy to have finally found a home in South Florida. 

"At the beginning of the year you never know what's going to happen or how it's going to turn out," Marchessault said. "I was just able to help win hockey games at the beginning of the year. We have great players here. I think everybody should feel lucky to be here."

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