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 wait is almost over.
As the NHL and NHLPA continue to get closer to finalizing plans for Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the Return to Play Plan, the 24 teams preparing to participate in the league's upcoming postseason -- including the Florida Panthers, of course -- are getting closer to opening up their training camps.
According to TSN insider Bob McKenzie, camps could potentially open as early as July 13.
If camps go off without a hitch, the No. 10 seed Panthers (35-26-8) will then fly to the Eastern Conference hub city (locations and dates still TBD) to begin their postseason run with a best-of-five series against the No. 7 seed New York Islanders (35-23-10) in the Stanley Cup Qualifier.
"I think it's going to be a good matchup," Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said of playing the Islanders. "It's going to be playoff hockey and it's going to come down to the wire a few games, but that's what it's all about. I think we got the slight edge; I think we can take them."
Until then, however, more and more players continue to return to the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs to take part in Phase 2, which includes plenty of informal skating and off-ice workouts.
Video: Return to Play Phase 2: Sergei Bobrovsky
"We've been on for five, six ice times now so we got a good situation," forward Brett Connolly said. "We'll get in there and work out, do a good 30-minute workout and then get on the ice. Because that's ultimately what we need, to feel good on the ice.
"Obviously, they'll try and make baby steps with that as we go but that's just the norm right now. And we're trying to be as ready as possible, but we've definitely made some strides and we feel a little better, obviously, now than the first time we got back on the ice."
Stay tuned to @FlaPanthers on Twitter this week for updates on launch of Phase 3.
PANTHERS UNCAGED NOW AVAILABLE
Why simply read about the Return to Play Plan when you can watch it in action!?
Beginning with a look back at their ups and downs during the regular season, "Panthers Uncaged" is a brand-new online docuseries that focuses on the team's return to the ice following an unprecedented three-month lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With the Panthers IceDen serving as the show's primary backdrop, fans are able to watch as players adjust to new virus testing procedures, shake off the rust on the ice and in the gym, and prepare for their upcoming series against the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Qualifier.
Presented by Lexus, "Panthers Uncaged" premiered last week on the team's Facebook, IGTV, PanthersVision and YouTube. In the first episode, fans were given a glimpse as what's to come before getting a full recap of the team's season up until the Return to Play Plan was approved.
Video: Panthers Uncaged: Episode 1
"For the fans and other people, to see hockey teams coming back, see how they're skating, how they're preparing to go on the ice and preparing for training camp, I think it's going to be a huge thing," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Everybody's going to be excited to see it."
For highlights from Episode 1, check out "Unpacking Panthers Uncaged" right HERE.
Stay tuned to @FlaPanthers on Twitter for information on upcoming episodes.
HUBERDEAU TOPS BARKOV IN NHL20
Jonathan Huberdeau has certainly earned some bragging rights… for now!
In a battle between two of the Panthers all-time great forwards, Huberdeau swept teammate Aleksander Barkov in their best-of-three series on NHL 20 last week on the team's official Twitch channel.
With more than 1,000 viewers tuning in to check out the action at Twitch.tv/FlaPanthers during the stream, Huberdeau won the first two games by scores of 8-1 and 8-6, respectively. So, in the third game, the duo decided to have some fun and teamed up against two Panthers staffers.
"It was fun," Barkov said. "It was fun to see you guys and play video games. It's not as competitive as real hockey, but still really fun. It was nice to talk and hang out in here."
To check out either the full stream or just highlights from the matchup, click HERE.
PANTHERLAND CURBSIDE PICKUP & DELIVERY
Did you know Pantherland is now doing curbside pickup and delivery?
Panthers-branded face coverings are now available for curbside pickup and delivery for $8 and $12 in S/M, L and XL sizes.
Head on over to FloridaPanthers.com/Pantherland to check out all of the new collections and to order something for either your own collection or as a gift for some of the Panthers fans in your life. Curbside pickup is available on Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at BB&T Center.
CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK
Did you miss last month's virtual Hockey Heritage Night? Don't worry, we've got you covered! Presented by Baptist Health, step into the Panthers Virtual Vault and view the event below.
Video: Virtual Vault Hockey Heritage Night
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
Panthers Senior Vice President Shawn Thornton joined last week's episode of the Territory Talk podcast to discuss the launch of "Panthers Uncaged," a few key storylines in the show that he's looking forward to seeing unfold, his own experience being part of a docuseries and much more!
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- Aleksander Barkov made quite the purchase this past week.
-- VAULTED: The Panthers set a franchise record with 12 straight wins in 2015-16.
-- Phase 2 of the NHL's Return to Play Plan is picking up steam at the Panthers IceDen.
-- The spotlight will be on Sergei Bobrovsky during the NHL's 24-team postseason.
-- It's time for a refresher! Look back at Florida's 20-goal scorers from the regular season.
-- NHL.com has come up with five questions facing the Panthers in the Qualifying Round.
-- The Panthers picked a very special Community Champion for their Pride Night on Feb. 8.
-- The Panthers would like to congratulate all 2020 graduates throughout South Florida!
-- Did know you can watch past episodes of "Inside the Panthers" on demand?