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Cats & Coffee: Panthers Heating Up; Holiday Hockey at BB&T Center

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!

With the holiday break coming up, the Florida Panthers are giving fans something to talk about.

Entering the week occupying third place in the Atlantic Division, the Panthers (18-12-5) pushed their winning streak to three games with a 4-2 win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.

After backing up each of the last seven games, Chris Driedger made a career-high 42 saves in his return to the net, while Evgenii Dadonov, Brian Boyle, Jonathan Huberdeau and Noel Acciari all found the back of the net for the Panthers, who have scored 17 goals during their hot streak.

"The ability and the talent we have on this team offensively has never been in question," Boyle said of Florida's offense, which is averaging the third-most goals in the league per game (3.51).

While there's plenty of praise to be passed around the locker room right now, no player enters this week riding higher than Acciari. In three games since being moved up to the second line to play alongside Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck, he's registered a team-leading seven goals.

Joining the Panthers this summer with no multi-goal games in his career, Acciari became just the second player in franchise history to record consecutive hat tricks in wins over the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars last week. In Carolina, his goal-scoring streak reached three games.

"We're just having a lot of fun out there," Acciari said after beating the Hurricanes. "Being our first road game in a while, I think we responded pretty well in the first. We were able to keep a lead the whole game, and that was important for us. Now, we've got a big game on Monday."

A big game indeed.

In their final matchup before a brief respite, the Panthers will finish their two-game road trip with an important tilt against the cross-state Lightning at AMALIE Arena on Monday. Florida currently sits three points ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings, but has also played in one more game.

Following the break, the Panthers will return to BB&T Center for a back-to-back against a pair of divisional foes in the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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

THE GAMES

Monday: at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will look to head into the holiday break on a high note when they wrap up a quick two-game road trip against the Lightning (17-13-4) at AMALIE Arena on Monday. The last game of the season series between the two cross-state rivals, Tampa Bay has taken won two of three against Florida thus far, including a 2-1 win in Sunrise on Dec. 10. That being said, the Lightning enter this week with losses in three of their last four games, including consecutive losses to the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov is currently on a five-game point streak (two goals, four assists) and leads the team with 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) this season. Meanwhile, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos pace the club with 13 goals each. As for the Panthers, all eyes will be on Noel Acciari in this contest. Lighting the lamp seven times over his last three games - including goals in three straight outings - the 28-year-old became just the second player ever in franchise history to post consecutive hat tricks last week. The other? Hall of Famer Pavel Bure. In his first season with the Panthers, Acciari ranks tied for fourth on the team with a career-high 12 goals.

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

Official Watch Party: Bokamper's Bar & Grill in Fort Lauderdale

Saturday: Detroit Red Wings, 7:00 p.m.

After taking a few days to recharge and relax, the Panthers will return from the holiday break to kick off a two-game homestand against the Red Wings (9-26-3) at BB&T Center on Saturday. Owning the fewest points in the league, Detroit has lost 16 of its last 18 games, including a 5-2 loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Struggling mightily at both ends of the ice, they're currently scoring the fewest goals (2.16) and allowing the most goals (3.92) per game in the league. Still, despite being in the midst of a rebuild, they do boast some good young talent. Tyler Bertuzzi, 24, leads the team in both goals (14) and points (30), while Anthony Mantha, 25, has chipped in 12 goals and 12 assists. For the Panthers, look for Jonathan Huberdeau to make a dent in the scoresheet in this matchup. Ranking first on the team and tied for seventh in the league with 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists), the 26-year-old winger has notched 10 points (two goals, eight assists) over his last three games, including a pair of four-point performances. In his career against Detroit, Huberdeau has accumulated seven goals and 10 assists in 22 games.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM 223 / Streaming 932

In-Arena Activations: 50/50 Raffle with Guaranteed Pot of at Least $25,000; JetBlue Takeover Night; Territory Takeover (Delray Beach)

Tickets: HERE

Sunday: Montreal Canadiens, 7:00 p.m.

In another important divisional matchup, the Panthers will wrap up a back-to-back set against the Canadiens (17-13-6) on Sunday at BB&T Center. Montreal, which currently trails Florida by one point in the Atlantic Division, has won six of its last nine games, but enters the week on the heels of a 4-3 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Tomas Tatar leads the team with 30 points, Brendan Gallagher has the most goals (15) and Phillip Danault has the most assists (19). Over his last seven games, Tatar has found the back of the net four times, while also contributing two assists. In net, Carey Price is 5-2-0 over his last seven starts with a .930 save percentage. But, of course, the Panthers have their own former Vezina Trophy winner between the pipes. Over his last seven starts, Sergei Bobrovsky has gone 4-3-0 while stopping 230 of 244 shots for a .943 save percentage. In his career against Montreal, the 31-year-old has been great, going 10-6-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and one shutout.

TV: FSF

Radio: 790 WAXY (DADE/BROWARD); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM 223 / Streaming 932

In-Arena Activations: 50/50 Raffle

Tickets: HERE

MILESTONE WATCH

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

- Brian Boyle is three assists away from his 100th NHL assist.

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

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

- Vincent Trocheck is seven games away from his 400th NHL game.

PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT

Given his name, it's no surprise that Serron Noel is heating up around the holidays.

Taken in the second round (32nd overall) by the Panthers in the 2018 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old forward has registered three goals and three assists in six December games with Oshawa in the OHL. On Dec. 15, he scored two goals to lead the Generals to a 5-2 win over the Guelph Storm.

Tweet from @GeneralsUpdates: Serron Noel had a big game last night with another 2 goals. Also had several big hits. Noel now has a point in all 4 games since he's returned from injury and has 6 points (3G/3A) in those games #FLAPanthers #Gens pic.twitter.com/YL0SWFLVLa

In 23 games this season, Noel has posted 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists).

ROAR INTO 2020

You only have four chances to catch the Panthers at BB&T Center next month.

We've made a ticket package to make sure you won't have to miss any of them.

With the newly released "January 4-Game Pack" fans can roar right into 2020 with a package that includes tickets to Florida's upcoming home games against the Arizona Coyotes (Jan. 7), Vancouver Canucks (Jan. 9), Toronto Maple Leafs (Jan. 12) and Los Angeles Kings (Jan. 16).

Each ticket package also comes with a special Panthers-branded champagne flute!

And, if you're in need of a last-minute holiday gift for the fan in your life, this is a great idea!

To purchase tickets, click HERE

WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINS

Florida's stars of the future will be on full display starting this week at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

Featuring some of the best players under age 20 from around the world, 10 participating nations have been split up into two separate groups of five: Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia and Kazakhstan are in Group A, while Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and the United States make up Group B.

The Panthers have three of their top prospects slated to compete at the annual event in goaltender Spencer Knight (United States), and forwards Grigori Denisenko (Russia) and Justin Schütz (Germany).

For a full preview of the tournament, click HERE

HITTING THE ICE… OUTDOORS

Even in balmy South Florida, a trip to an outdoor ice rink around the holidays is possible.

As part of Hoffman's Chocolates 29th Annual Winter Wonderland holiday display, the Panthers' annual outdoor holiday rink is currently open outside of Hoffman's Chocolates in Greenacres.

The 2,400 square foot outdoor rink officially opened on Nov. 16 and will run through Dec. 30.

If you'd like to stop by for a skate, the hours of operation for this week are as follows: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The rink will be closed on all Tuesdays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

No skates? No problem! General admission tickets are $15 and include skate rentals. Group admission (10+ skaters) is $13, while military and first responders are $10 (valid ID required).

A portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold will benefit the Florida Panthers Foundation. For more information, please visit FloridaPanthers.com/HolidayRink.

CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK

In conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and OB House, Jonathan Huberdeau recently delivered some holiday cheer - and a whole lot of yummy pancakes - to local families in Broward County.

Video: Huberdeau visits Local Families

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: It���s the annual @UnitedWayBC #DayofCaring @thebbtcenter! pic.twitter.com/fhiB3ZZY4i

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: #FlaPanthers alumni sighting right inside main doors of @thebbtcenter at the 50/50 raffle table. 👀Make sure to pick up your raffle ticket tonight! 🎟 pic.twitter.com/D8U6uwEP87

Tweet from @StanleyCPanther: Working hard...or hardly working?😹 Packing 300,000 meals with @unitedwayofbroward for families in need😻 pic.twitter.com/W0vWSEhazj

TERRITORY TALK

On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, Panthers forward Noel Acciari joined the show to discuss his first NHL hat trick, Christmas shopping and, of course, his love of cookies.

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

- Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck and Dominic Toninato visited Broward Health, the official pediatric provider of the Florida Panthers, to spread some Holiday cheer. 

Video: Florida Panthers visit Broward Health

-- Check out clips, notes and quotes from Florida's 4-2 win at Carolina in "5 Takeaways." 

-- What's better than one hat trick? Two hat tricks, of course! 

-- Jonathan Huberdeau has been a milestone machine this season. 

-- The Panthers acquired forward Ryan Haggerty from the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

-- Panthers prospect Logan Hutsko got a shout out from Justin Bieber on Instagram. 

-- Speaking of social media, the Panthers are on TikTok! 

-- Take a walk down memory lane with the Panthers Virtual Vault. 

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