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Cats & Coffee: Ringing In the New Year; World Juniors Wrap Up

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!

The Florida Panthers are riding high into 2020.

Winning five of their last six games, the Panthers closed out last week with a 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens at BB&T Center on Sunday. In the win, Jonathan Huberdeau continued his scoring tear with two goals and two assists while playing in front of 160 of his family and friends.

"A lot of tickets, but it was fun to see the support," said Huberdeau, who grew up near Montreal in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. "They've been so good to me, so it was fun to play in front of them."

Leading the Panthers in goals (16), assists (37) and points (53), Huberdeau has been one of the hottest offensive players in the league in recent weeks. Over his last 22 games, the 26-year-old winger has recorded 33 points (seven goals, 26 assists) to climb up to sixth in league-scoring.

With a good chance to make history this week, the former third-overall draft pick needs just seven more points to move into a tie with Olli Jokinen for the most in franchise history (419).

"Huby was special tonight," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "He had several nice looks, great plays. He had the puck on his stick a lot. I thought that line played well together tonight."

Sitting at 20-13-5, Florida currently resides in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Looking to move even further up the standings, the Panthers will kick off a four-game road trip against Columbus on Tuesday. After that, they'll head to Ottawa on Thursday before wrapping up their northern trek against Buffalo and Pittsburgh on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

As it stands right now, Florida trails Toronto by two points for second place in the division.

"It's going to be good for us to get out on the road and kind of bond a little bit at dinner and stuff like that," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "I think it'll be a good change of pace for us."

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

THE GAMES

Tuesday: at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will open up a four-game road trip when they visit the Blue Jackets (17-14-8) at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday. On a 10-game point streak, Columbus enters the week on the heels of a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Sunday. In addition to losing the game, they might have also lost their starting netminder, as Joonas Korpisalo exited the tilt with an undisclosed injury after facing one skater in the shootout. If he is unable to go against the Panthers, backup Elvis Merzļikins would likely get the nod. Up front, the Blue Jackets are led by Pierre-Luc Dubois (27 points), Gustav Nyquist (26 points) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (23 points). Dubois leads the team with 13 goals and has recorded nine points (three goals, six assists) in his previous eight games. As for the Panthers, who beat Columbus 4-1 on Dec. 7 in Sunrise, look for Aleksander Barkov to make some noise in this contest. Sitting second on the team in points (45) and assists (32), the 24-year-old center has notched 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) over his last 26 games.

TV: FSF

Radio: 790 WAXY (DADE/BROWARD); 640 WMEN (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST)

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

Thursday: at Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m.

After ringing in the New Year on Wednesday, the Panthers will open up the 2020 portion of their campaign when they visit the Senators (16-18-5) at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday. Earning at least one point in eight of their last nine games, Ottawa closed out last week with a tough 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey on Sunday. During that nine-game stretch of picking up points, the only regulation loss they suffered was a 6-1 defeat at Florida on Dec. 16. Anthony Duclair leads the Senators in scoring with 31 points and also sits tied for ninth in the league with 21 goals. A scoring machine in December, the 24-year-old forward has found the back of the net 11 times over his last 11 games, including three multi-goal performances. For the Panthers, look for Mike Matheson to contribute at both ends of the ice in this matchup. Over his last nine games, the 25-year-old defenseman has tallied three goals and three assists while also earning a plus-4 rating.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 850 WFTL (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST)

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

Saturday: at Buffalo Sabres, 1:00 p.m.

The Panthers will kick off a back-to-back set with a divisional matchup against the Sabres (17-16-7) on Saturday. In a bit of a rut, Buffalo has lost six of its last seven games, including a 3-2 defeat at Boston on Sunday. In that seven-game stretch, the offense hasn't been able to muster much, as they've scored just 12 goals in that span. Still, with Jack Eichel on the ice, the Sabres are always a threat to fill up the back of the net. In 39 games this season, the 23-year-old forward has posted 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points. Carrying a hot stick over his last 21 games, Eichel has produced 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in that span. Looking to earn their first win of the season against Buffalo - they've gone 0-1-1 thus far - the Panthers should expect some points from Jonathan Huberdeau in this game. Leading the team and ranking sixth in the league with 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists), the 26-year-old winger has worked at nearly a point-per-game clip in his career against the Sabres, recording 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 28 games.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (DADE/BROWARD); 850 WFTL (PALM BEACH); 100.3 WCTH (FLORIDA KEYS); 1370 WAXE (TREASURE COAST)

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE 

Sunday: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 5:00 p.m.

Wrapping up their four-game road trip, the Panthers will close out a back-to-back set when they visit the Penguins (23-11-4) at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday. Entering the week sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division, Pittsburgh has won nine of its last 11 games, including a 6-4 win against Nashville on Saturday. A big part of the team's recent success has been the play of Tristan Jarry in net. Owning a 7-1-0 record over his last eight starts, the 24-year-old goaltender has posted a .950 save percentage with three shutouts in that span. On offense, the Penguins are led by Jake Guentzel (40 points) and Evgeni Malkin (35 points). Guentzel also leads the team with 19 goals, while Bryan Rust has chipped in 16. Picking up a 4-2 win in their only other meeting this season back on Oct. 22, look for the Panthers to turn to Noel Acciari for a clutch goal in this tilt. One of the hottest goal-scorers in the league heading into the New Year, the 28-year-old forward has netted eight goals - including a pair of hat tricks - over his last six games.

TV: FSF

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

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

MILESTONE WATCH

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

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

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

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

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

PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT

Henrik Rybinski has turned it up a notch on offense.

A fifth-round pick (136th overall) by the Panthers in the 2019 NHL Draft, the 18-year-old forward is currently riding a three-game point streak in which he's recorded three goals and four assists.

On Dec. 27, Rybinski earned first-star honors when he racked up four points (two goals, two assists) to help guide the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds to a 9-4 win over the Spokane Chiefs.

Tweet from @SeattleTbirds: The @HeritageBankNW 3 Stars of the Game tonight are:🌟 Henrik Rybinski🌟🌟 Conner Bruggen-Cate🌟🌟🌟 Keltie Jeri-Leon pic.twitter.com/Wvk7a44qt5

In his second season with Seattle, Rybinski's recent surge in production has pushed him all the way up to second on the team in scoring with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 34 games.

WORLD JUNIORS WRAP UP

With the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship wrapping up this week in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, the battle to take home a gold medal is heating up for three Panthers prospects.

The top international tournament for players under age 20, goaltender Spencer Knight (United States), and forwards Grigori Denisenko (Russia) and Justin Schütz (Germany) have all done a great job representing Florida and their respective nations during the first few weeks of the event.

Serving as Russia's captain, Denisenko, who finished tied for the scoring lead at last year's tournament, has one goal and two assists, while Schütz has one assist for upstart Germany.

Knight, meanwhile, was named player of the game in USA's 3-1 win over Russia on Sunday.

Who will win gold? Stay tuned to find out.

Here's the remaining schedule for Panthers prospects at the World Juniors:

Monday, Dec. 30

Canada vs. Germany (Schütz), 9 a.m. ET, NHLN

Czech Republic vs. USA (Knight), 1 p.m. ET, NHLN

Tuesday, Dec. 31

Russia (Denisenko) vs. Germany (Schütz), 9 a.m. ET

Thursday, Jan. 2

Relegation Game 1, 4 a.m. ET

Quarterfinal 1, 6:30 a.m. ET, NHLN

Quarterfinal 2, 9 a.m. ET, NHLN

Quarterfinal 3, 11:30 a.m. ET, NHLN

Quarterfinal 4, 2 p.m. ET, NHLN

Saturday, Jan. 4

Relegation, Game 2 5 a.m. ET

Semifinal 1, 9 a.m. ET, NHLN

Semifinal 2, 1 p.m. ET, NHLN

Sunday, Jan. 5

Relegation, Game 3 (if needed), 5 a.m. ET

Third-place game, 9 a.m. ET, NHLN

Championship game, 1 p.m. ET, NHLN

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).

To purchase tickets, click HERE.

CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK

Panthers players spread some holiday cheer at Broward Health and other local hospitals in December. 

Video: Florida Panthers visit Broward Health

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: We���re honored to welcome tonight���s @mossconstruct Community Champion @PaceCenter. pic.twitter.com/FSH9FEqmcE

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

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: We���re honored to welcome tonight���s @mossconstruct Community Champion @BrowardHealth. pic.twitter.com/M95wL42oaI

TERRITORY TALK

On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov joined the show for a special 10-minute chat about holidays, including some memories and traditions.

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- Look back at Florida's 6-5 win over Montreal with "5 Takeaways."

-- Riley Stillman is ready to get to work in his latest stint with the Panthers.

-- Spencer Knight is eager to prove himself at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

-- Speaking of the World Juniors, three Panthers prospects are going for gold.

-- Noel Acciari was named the NHL's "First Star of the Week" last week.

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

-- Have you checked out the Panthers Virtual Vault yet?

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