Following a 4-3 victory at Chicago on Jan. 21, the Panthers are cruising into the league's annual mid-season break on a season-high, six-game winning streak. A stretch that has allowed the club to climb all the way up into third place in the Atlantic Division with a solid 28-16-5 record.
Overall, the Cats have won 13 of their last 17 games.
"It was something we wanted to do and accomplish," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of his team's enviable position in the standings heading into the break. "Very pleased with how we're entering (the break). Let's enjoy it and then come back and think about the second half."
Not only have they been winning, they've been doing it in exciting fashion.
Averaging the most goals per game in the league (3.67), the Panthers have seemingly had a different hero on offense every single night. Boasting six different players with at least 15 goals, Evgenii Dadonov leads the way with a team-high 23, including scoring 11 in his last 15 games.
After Dadonov, three players are locked into a tie for second on the team in the goal-scoring department, as Noel Acciari, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau each have 18. Behind them, Aleksander Barkov and Brett Connolly have registered 16, while Frank Vatrano has 14.
In Chicago, Vatrano led the charge with his first hat trick of the season.
"It's always nice to be rewarded like that," said Vatrano, whose hat trick was already Florida's fourth this year. "I've said before that scoring one goal in this league is hard enough, so obviously a hat trick is a great honor. It obviously couldn't have been done without the other guys on the ice."
Of course, things are also improving at the other end of the ice as well.
Starting three games in four night after missing two games with a lower-body injury, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped a combined 88 of 96 shots (.917 save percentage) in wins over Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago to help the Panthers finish their road trip with a perfect 3-0-0 record.
Over his last 11 starts, the 31-year-old veteran goaltender has gone 8-3-0.
"It was an important game with the points in the bank," Bobrovsky said after turning aside 32 of 35 shots against the Blackhawks. "It will help us definitely. We have to have a good break now - reset, refocus, re-energize and get ready for the most important part of the season."
Here's everything you need to know for the week ahead…
Saturday: at Montreal Canadiens, 2:00 p.m. ET
Upon their return from the break, the Panthers will head right onto the road, kicking off a three-game trek with a matchup against the Canadiens (22-21-7) at Bell Centre on Saturday. After snapping out of an eight-game losing streak, Montreal enters this week with wins in four of its last five contests, including a 5-4 shootout win over Las Vegas on Jan. 18. Tomas Tatar leads the team in goals (17), assists (26) and points (43). Over his last eight games, the 29-year-old forward has been operating a point-per-game pace, tallying one goal and seven assists in eight games. For the Panthers, look for Aleksander Barkov to remain red hot heading into the second half of the season. Ranking second on the team with 54 points (16 goals, 38 assists), the 24-year-old center flew into the break on a six-game point streak in which he racked up three goals and six assists. Additionally, in the only previous meeting between Montreal and Florida this season, Barkov posted three points (two goals, one assist) to help lead the Panthers to a 6-5 win in Sunrise back on Dec. 29. In 22 career games against the Canadiens, he has 16 goals.
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- Keith Yandle is one goal away from his 100th NHL goal.
- Brett Connolly is five goals away from his 100th NHL goal.
- Aaron Ekblad is one point away from his 200th NHL point.
- Aleksander Barkov is one point away from his 400th NHL point.
- Anton Stralman is two games away from his 800th NHL game.
Owen Tippett is really coming into his own in the AHL right now.
Leading Springfield in goals (19), assists (21) and points (40), the 20-year-old forward has been on a scoring tear in recent weeks, notching seven goals and eight assists in his last 10 contests.
In his final game before the break, Tippett earned first-star honors after posting a goal and an assist to help lead the Thunderbirds to a 6-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Jan. 25.
Competing in the AHL All-Star Classic tonight at 10 p.m. ET on NHL Network, Tippett, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, is also currently tied for the most points among AHL rookies.
Keep it up, Owen!
ALL-STAR RETURNS TO SOUTH FLORIDA
NHL All-Star Weekend is coming back to South Florida!
Returning to the area for the first time since 2003, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced last week that the 2021 NHL All-Star Weekend - which includes the Skills Competition, All-Star Game and tons of other fun events -- will be held at BB&T Center in Sunrise on Jan. 29 and 30.
"The Florida Panthers are thrilled to welcome hockey fans from around the world to South Florida for NHL All-Star Weekend," Panthers President & CEO Matt Caldwell. "This is one of the league's premier events of the year and we couldn't be more proud to have it in our backyard."
Video: 2021 NHL All-Star Weekend heads to South Florida
And even though it's a year away, it's never too early to start planning.
While ticketing information is still forthcoming, 2020-21 Panthers Season Ticket Holders will be given priority access to this incredible spectacle. In the meantime, fans can call 954-835-PUCK (7825) for more information or sign up HERE to receive updates as they become available.
"The All-Star Game is an event that has the world's eyes," Panthers Senior Vice President Shawn Thornton said. "Under the ownership and leadership of Vincent J. Viola and Douglas A. Cifu since 2013, I've seen first-hand as a player and an executive how the South Florida hockey community and this franchise have grown and become permanently fixed in Broward County. This event is a chance for the community, league and Panthers hockey fans to celebrate together."
HUBERDEAU SHINES IN ST. LOUIS
Jonathan Huberdeau made a very good impression in his first trip to the All-Star Game.
After a nice showing in the Skills Competition on Friday, the Panthers superstar winger tallied a goal and an assist for the Atlantic Division in a 5-4 loss to the Pacific Division in the championship matchup of the All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday night.
In two games of the 3-on-3 tournament, the 26-year-old recorded two goals and one assist.
"It was cool," said Huberdeau, who leads the Panthers with 65 points (18 goals, 47 assists). "A lot of guys were trying being creative out there. You can see how much skill they all have. It's nice to be out there with them and see that in real life. I had a really good time this weekend."
To read and watch more about Huberdeau's weekend, click HERE.
VATRANO GOES HOME
Frank Vatrano spent the first part of his break back where it all began.
Growing up just outside of Springfield in East Longmeadow, Mass., the Panthers winger took a brief trip down memory lane when he paid a visit to Florida's AHL affiliate on Jan. 24 to drop the ceremonial first puck before the Thunderbirds hosted the Hershey Bears at MassMutual Center.
"You know, it feels great to be back in the MassMutual Center," Vatrano told MassLive. "Since Springfield and Florida are affiliates of each other, it's always nice to have an opportunity to come back to your hometown, see all of the hockey fans around here, show my face around and just have a good time."
In addition to dropping the puck, Vatrano also signed autographs and snapped photos with fans while sporting an eye-catching "Springfield Ice-O-Topes" jersey, which was inspired by the long-running cartoon "The Simpsons" and will be worn during the team's "What If? Night" on Feb. 1.
"Being back in a place where I grew up during my entire life, and spent most of my summers is special to me," said Vatrano, who's tallied 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) this season in Florida. "I've played hockey here, I've played baseball, and I've played every sport possible here.
"So to now play at the high stages of the NHL, and to come back to see family and friends is something I always look forward to."
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
Vincent Trocheck donned a mic during his 400th NHL game back on Jan. 5 in Pittsburgh.
Video: Mic'd Up: Vincent Trocheck
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, Doug Plagens and Jameson Olive take a look back at the Panthers' season-long, six-game winning streak heading into the break and everything that came out of it, including the "Bean Bag Boys," "Mark Prius," and much more!
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- Checking in from All-Star Weekend, Jonathan Huberdeau penned a postcard to fans.
-- The Panthers Alumni Association recently handed out its youth scholarships.
-- Take a look back at Florida's impressive win in Chicago with "5 Takeaways."
-- Riley Stillman and Sam Montembeault were loaned to AHL Springfield.
-- You asked, he answered. Check out the last "Panthers Mailbag" featuring Aaron Ekblad.
-- The Panthers are hosting their 1st Annual NHL20 Tournament!
--Get in in the game with the "Learn to Play" program.
-- Florida will host its annual Pride Night on Feb. 8.