Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers will conclude their preseason this week with three contests against a pair of Eastern Conference playoff contenders - their last on-ice tests before finally dropping the puck on the 2017-18 season.
The Panthers improved to 2-0-1 in the preseason after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 at Amalie Arena on Sunday. Jonathan Huberdeau and newcomers Jamie McGinn, Evegnii Dadonov and Radim Vrbata all found the back of the net for Florida, which has scored 11 goals in three preseason games thus far.
"I think everybody's feeling good in the dressing room," Vrbata said after the game. "It obviously wasn't the start we wanted. We spent the whole first period in the box, but our PK guys and [goaltender James Reimer] did a great job the whole game. And then once we started playing 5-on-5, we took over."
Following Sunday's tilt in Tampa Bay, the Panthers will now return to Sunrise to host the Lightning for a pair of games at the BB&T Center on Tuesday, Sept. 26 (7:30 p.m. ET) and Thursday, Sept. 28 (6 p.m. ET) before heading to Montreal to close out their preseason against the Canadiens on Friday, Sept. 29 (7 p.m. ET).
"They're a quick team and they always have a good game plan," head coach Bob Boughner said when asked about Florida's upcoming games against the Lightning. "They had a young lineup [on Sunday]. I think both teams are still trying to sort out their rosters and give their young guys shots. I think as we get into the middle of this week here you're going to see more veterans come in and get a better ready on both clubs."
Tickets for Tuesday and Thursday's games can be purchased HERE.
PUCKS FOR BUCKS
Panthers alumni will face off against the first responders of Coral Springs in the second 'Pucks for Bucks' charity hockey game on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. at the BB&T Center.
Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Vokoun, Peter Worrell, Bill Lindsay, Shawn Thornton and more are expected to lace up their skates for the Panthers alumni squad. Fans are encouraged to donate $10 for admission to the game, with all proceeds going towards the Coral Springs Community Chest.
"The Florida Panthers are thrilled to partner with the Coral Springs Community Chest in hosting the second Puck for Bucks charity hockey game," Panthers Vice President of Broadcasting and Panthers Alumni Randy Moller said. "With the overwhelming support from our alumni, we thank the first responders of Broward County for their service to the community. We are very excited to have our alumni and the first responders hit the ice together and provide the community with another fun and exciting hockey game for a great cause."
Coral Springs Community Chest, a 501 non-profit organization, was founded in 1988 on the premise that community resources should provide for community needs. There is no paid staff, so 98 percent of the funds raised are reinvested back into the community. Coral Springs Community Chest has generated almost two million dollars for non-profit organizations that have services and programs benefiting Coral Springs residents.
If you are interested in attending the event, you can learn more HERE.
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- In our latest Q&A, newly acquired forward Jamie McGinn talks about his plans to add a little leadership and a lot of grit to the Panthers' lineup during his first season in South Florida.
"I think sometimes being a leader isn't all vocal," McGinn said. "It's doing the right things out there. If you just continue to work, the young guys will follow. I think that's another way you can lead."
-- We've signed defenseman Ed Wittchow to a one-year, two-way contract.
-- Henrik Haapala, who led the Finnish league in scoring last season, is "ready as I can be" for jump to the NHL with the Panthers this season.
"I'm 23 and I played four years in the men's league [in Finland] and I think now is the time if ever [to try to play in the NHL]," Haapala said. "Maybe next year it would be too late. I think this year I'm as ready as I can be."
-- Opening Night is less than two weeks away! Get your tickets now.