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!
The Florida Panthers have a chance to tighten their grip on a playoff spot this week.
After extending their winning streak to a season-high four games with a 4-1 win in Detroit on Saturday, they'll have a chance to continue piling up points when they close out their road trip with back-to-back games at Minnesota and Chicago on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Following those games, the team will break for the NHL All-Star Weekend and the Bye Week.
"It's big," said Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who will be representing the team at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis this weekend. "We need to be consistent. Having a streak, that's what we wanted. Heading into the break, we'd like to be in a playoff spot. It's so tight in the standings… It's important to get these next four points. We've just got to keep playing well."
Already averaging the most goals per game in the league (3.64), Florida's attack has been extra potent during their streak. During that torrid four-game stretch, they outscored the opposition by a lopsided margin of 21-10 while never failing to light the lamp at least four times in each outing.
Riding their streak right back into a playoff spot, the Panthers (26-16-5) currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division. And with a pair of games left to play until the break, the team is hoping to give itself a little cushion in the standings before embarking on its post-break push.
"You never want to be chasing in anything," Panthers rookie defenseman Riley Stillman said. "If you're chasing, you're in the wrong spot. Now that we're in there, we've got two games left before the break, and we want to make sure that we keep rolling and can solidify that spot."
Here's everything you need to know for the week ahead…
Monday: at Minnesota Wild, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Panthers will open up a back-to-back set when they visit the Wild (22-20-6) at Xcel Energy Center on Monday. At this point, it's safe to say that Florida is due for a win in Minnesota, as the team hasn't won in the North Star State since 2010. Shaking out of a four-game losing streak, the Wild enter this week with wins in each of its last two games, including a 7-0 throttling of Dallas on Saturday. In that win over the Stars, seven different players lit the lamp for Minnesota, including Zach Parise, who leads the team with 18 goals. Also on offense, Eric Staal paces the club in scoring with 35 points, while Ryan Suter has the most assists (26). At the other end of the ice, look for Jonathan Huberdeau to chip in at least a point or two for the Panthers. Ranking first on the team in with 64 points (18 goals, 46 assists), the 26-year-old winger has notched 27 point (seven goals, 20 assists) in his last 15 games, while also registering eight multi-point performances in that span.
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 Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Panthers will look to head into their break on a high note when they close out a back-to-back set against the Blackhawks (24-20-6) at United Center on Tuesday. Chicago enters this week riding a five-game winning streak, including a 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Sunday. In that tilt, Patrick Kane registered his 1,000th career NHL point, becoming just the 90th player in the history of the league to do so. Heading to his ninth All-Star Game later this month, Kane leads the Blackhawks in goals (24), assists (38) and points (62) this season. On a 10-game point streak, the 31-year-old forward has tallied 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) during that stretch. For the Panthers, look for Evgenii Dadonov to find the back of the net in this one. Leading the team with 21 goals, the 30-year-old winger is currently on a two-game goal-scoring streak and has lit the lamp seven times over his last eight games overall, including three power-play goals.
TV: FSF, ESPN+
Radio: 790 WAXY (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Streaming 932
Territory on Tap Locations: HERE
Official Watch Party: Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park
- Keith Yandle is two goals away from his 100th NHL goal.
- Brett Connolly is five goals away from his 100th NHL goal.
- Aaron Ekblad is three points away from his 200th NHL point.
- Anton Stralman is four games away from his 800th NHL game.
Ryan Bednard checked off an important career milestone this past week.
Recalled to the AHL from the ECHL on Jan. 12, the 22-year-old goaltender shined during his first start with Springfield, making 36 saves - including all 11 he faced in the third period - to help guide the Thunderbirds to a dominant 4-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night.
Fine-tuning his game during his first season in the professional ranks following an outstanding career at Bowling Green University, Bednard will likely get to continue earning time between the pipes in the AHL while Sam Montembeault is filling for injured backup Chris Driedger in Florida.
A seventh-round pick (206th overall) of the Panthers in the 2015 NHL Draft, Bednard had been seeing ample playing time in the ECHL prior to his call-up. In 22 appearances with Greenville, he went 9-11-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and one shutout.
While the rest of his teammates take a break, Jonathan Huberdeau has other plans.
Selected to the first NHL All-Star Game of his career, Florida's superstar winger will soon be rubbing elbows with other top players from around the league when he heads to St. Louis to participate in the 2020 installment of the annual event at the Enterprise Center this weekend.
All-Star Weekend will kick off with the Skills Competition on Friday, Jan. 24, which features events such as Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot. Given that he ranks fourth in the league in assists (46), Huberdeau said he'd like to compete in anything that involves dishing the biscuit.
"That's one of my strengths, so, obviously, I'd like to do that," he said.
On Saturday, Jan. 25, Huberdeau will hit the ice once again for the NHL All-Star Game, a 3-on-3 tournament in which stars from the four divisions - Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan - are pitted against each another. Huberdeau, of course, will be representing the Atlantic Division.
Each game in the tournament will be 20 minutes in length, with teams changing ends at the 10-minute mark of each game. If a game is tied after 20 minutes, it will be decided by a shootout. The winners of each semi-final game will play each other in the final to determine the champion.
"It's a great honor to be in the All-Star Game for the first time," Huberdeau said. "I think I'm playing well this year, points are coming in. I'm just really happy. I think it's a great experience."
To keep up with Huberdeau throughout the weekend, follow @FlaPanthers on Twitter.
Want to be a part of the playoff push? This is your chance!
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
Sergei Bobrovsky made this sequence look easy - but trust me, it wasn't. With two huge saves in less than a second, he showed why he's one of the best in the league.
Video: FLA@DET: Bobrovsky makes consecutive saves on Nielsen
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, Panthers defenseman Josh Brown joins the show to talk about his sophomore season in the NHL, his longtime love of Star Wars and more!
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- Get caught up on all the quotes, notes and clips from Florida's win over the Red Wings.
-- The Panthers had quite the night on the penalty kill in Detroit.
-- Vincent Trocheck penned the latest entry in the "Panther Postcard" series.
-- Panthers backup goaltender Chris Driedger is expected to miss several weeks with an injury.
-- You asked, he answered. Check out the last "Panthers Mailbag" featuring Aaron Ekblad.
-- The Panthers have joined forces with the Florida Warriors to help disabled veterans.
-- NHL.com honored Joel Quenneville as the "Coach of the Decade" in a recent article.
-- Vincent Trocheck went for a post-game joyride after a recent home win.
-- The Panthers are hosting their 1st Annual NHL20 Tournament!
-- Jonathan Huberdeau's longtime teammates were thrilled after he broke Florida's all-time points record.
-- Get in in the game with the "Learn to Play" program.
-- Florida will host its annual Pride Night on Feb. 8.
-- The Panthers recently announced a multi-year partnership with Ultimate Software.