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Cats & Coffee: Turning a Corner; Beerfest 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!

The Florida Panthers believe they've turned a corner.

Shaking out of a late-season slump, the Panthers closed out last week playing some of their best hockey to date. After earning one point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, they then took two points from the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 win on Saturday.

"We made a few tweaks defensively," said Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said, who tallied two assists against Montreal to push his career-high point total to 41 (five goals, 36 assists). "It's something that we really wanted to take care of, our own zone. Limiting [the opposition] to one goal in regulation in each of those games was huge. It's something we can really build off of."

One of the driving forces behind those strong defensive performances was Chris Driedger.

Since returning to the lineup after missing nearly two months with a lower-body injury, the 25-year-old goaltender has been nearly infallible. In backstopping the Panthers to a 1-0-1 record against the Bruins and Canadiens, he turned aside 59 of 62 shots for a .952 save percentage.

"I can't say enough good things about how comfortable he looked in these two games at home." Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Driedger, who's posted a 6-2-1 record with a .936 save percentage and one shutout so far this season. "He did everything he could to get us points."

With the playoff race heating up, the Panthers (34-26-8) currently trail the Toronto Maple Leafs (35-25-9) by just three points for third place in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand and also one head-to-head matchup remaining between the two clubs on the docket for March 23.

Looking to make up some ground in the standings before that crucial rematch, the Panthers will attempt to pick up some points on the road this week. After visiting the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Monday, they'll then travel to Dallas to face the Stars on Thursday.

Then on Saturday, they'll return home for a one-game pit stop against the New Jersey Devils.

With 14 games left on their schedule, the Panthers appear primed to make their move.

"Let's use this momentum swing here and a change of a direction here in a real positive way," Quenneville said. "Let's get going here knowing that, hey, we could have a great opportunity."

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

THE GAMES

Monday: at St. Louis Blues, 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Panthers will open up an important two-game road trip when they visit the Central Division-leading Blues (41-18-10) at Enterprise Center on Monday. St. Louis enters the week with wins in nine of its last 10 games, including a 2-0 win at Chicago on Sunday. The defending Stanley Cup champions have been one of the best teams in the league on home ice this season, going 23-6-5. The Blues boast five players with at least 50 points this season, including David Perron, who leads the team with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists). In net, goaltender Jordan Binnington owns a 6-1-0 record over his last seven starts, posting a .929 save percentage with a pair of shutouts in that span. For the Panthers, look for MacKenzie Weegar to make an impact at both ends of the ice in this matchup. In addition to lighting the lamp in each of his last two contests, the 26-year-old defenseman has also racked up four hits and seven blocked shots in that time.

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

Thursday: at Dallas Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Panthers will look to pick up some points in the Lone Star State when they close out their two-game road trip against the suddenly-slumping Stars (37-23-8) at American Airlines Center on Thursday. Dallas enters the week on a five-game losing streak, including being shut out in consecutive games against Nashville on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Struggling to find the back of the net, the Stars have scored just seven goals during their current skid, which has sent their offense tumbling all the way down to 26th in the league (2.59 goals per game). That being said, they still boast plenty of weapons up front. Tyler Seguin leads the team in points (50) and assists (33), while Jamie Benn has the most goals (19). At the other end of the ice, look for Jonathan Huberdeau to do some damage for the Panthers. Leading the team and ranking 10th in the league with 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists), the 26-year-old winger has done very well in his career against the Stars, registering 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 11 games played.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); TBD (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

Saturday: New Jersey Devils, 7:00 p.m. ET

Taking a quick break from the road, the Panthers will return home to host the Devils (28-28-12) at BB&T Center on Saturday. Despite occupying eighth place in the Metropolitan Division, New Jersey has actually been playing very well as of late. Owning a 6-2-2 record over their last 10 games, the Devils enter the week on a modest two-game winning streak, including a 6-4 win at the New York Rangers on Saturday. Finding the back of the net twice in the Big Apple, Kyle Palmieri leads New Jersey in scoring with 45 points (25 goals, 20 assists). Between the pipes, veteran goaltender Cory Schneider appears to have gotten back on track, recording a 3-0-1 record with a .952 save percentage and one shutout over his last four starts. For the Panthers, Mike Hoffman should be a threat to light the lamp in this one. Leading the team with 28 goals, the 30-year-old winger has been quite the tear as of late, racking up seven goals over his last 10 games. And in 16 career games against the Devils, he's registered a whopping eight goals.

TV: FSF

Radio: TBD (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

In-Arena Activations: 50/50 Raffle with Guaranteed Pot of at Least $25,000; Territory Takeover (Coral Gables/Coconut Grove); "Pucks & Pints" Beerfest

Tickets: HERE

MILESTONE WATCH

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

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

- Mike Matheson is two games away from his 300th NHL game.

PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT

It's time to check back in with Logan Hutsko.

Taking a big step forward in his junior season at Boston College, the 21-year-old winger has already reached new career-highs in both goals (19) and points (33) in 30 games. Playing top-line minutes for the Eagles, his 19 goals are tied for the 11th-most in Men's Division I Hockey.

A model of offensive consistency, he's registered at least a point in 26 of 30 games this season.

Tweet from @BCHockey: ������ Hutsko ties Newhook for the team lead with his 19th of the year pic.twitter.com/9zy1U9GS6g

Originally selected by the Panthers in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft, Hutsko scored one goal in a 3-3 tie at New Hampshire on Saturday in Boston College's regular-season finale. This weekend, the Eagles will begin their push for a championship in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

Good luck, Logan!

PUCKS AND PINTS BEERFEST

You can never go wrong mixing hockey and hops.

Presented by Funky Buddha Brewery, the Panthers will host their bi-annual "Pucks & Pints" Beerfest on Saturday, March 14 at BB&T Center when the New Jersey Devils come to town.

All fans must be 21 or older to purchase tickets and attend the Beerfest, which will feature live music, giveaways and, of course, a lot of fun beer sampling from participating local breweries.

Every fan that attends the event will receive a 4oz "Pucks & Pints" exclusive sampling cup and unlimited tastings from many incredible breweries such as Barrel of Monks, Broski Ciderworks, Concrete Beach Brewery, Copperpoint Brewing Company, Funky Buddha Brewery, Lagunitas, LauderAle, M.I.A. Beer Company, The Tank Brewing Co and much more.

A portion of all proceeds from the Beerfest will benefit the Florida Panthers Foundation.

For information on special ticket packages, click HERE.

GRATEFUL FOR HOCKEY

This might be the grooviest game of the entire season.

On Thursday, March 19, the Deadheads will descend upon BB&T Center to celebrate Florida's eighth semi-annual Grateful Dead Night when the Panthers play host to the Buffalo Sabres.

By purchasing one of the several ticket package options HERE, fans will not only be given early access to the arena to enjoy pre-game concert featuring Unlimited Devotion at the Coors Light Cold Zone, but will also receive an exclusive tie-dye Grateful Dead jersey while supplies last.

 If you're a Territory Member, you can purchase an add-on for Grateful Dead Night right HERE.

CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK

Roberto Luongo's No.1 jersey will live forever within the rafters at BB&T Center. Thank you to everyone that made Saturday's ceremony an unforgettable night!

Video: Thank You Luongo

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

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

Tweet from @MilitaryMkover: An unforgettable night for our #MilitaryMakeover family at @thebbtcenter as they got to experience the pre-game penalty box and front row glass seats at a @FlaPanthers game. 🏒 pic.twitter.com/Ehmj1bxpho

Tweet from @StanleyCPanther: See you tonight at the game @KellyNBC6 ... 😻 mi amor! @nbc6 @flapanthers #oneterritory pic.twitter.com/mIVseCtfmg

TERRITORY TALK

On the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast, new Panthers forward Lucas Wallmark joins the show to talk about his move to South Florida, his sophomore season in the NHL and more!

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- Territory Memberships are on sale now!

-- Roberto Luongo said he was "humbled" by the love he received on Saturday.

-- Miss anything from Florida's 4-1 win over Montreal? Catch up with 5 Takeaways!

-- Coming off an injury, Chris Driedger hasn't skipped a beat in net for the Panthers.

-- It's never too late to become a hockey player. The "Adult Learn to Play" program is back!

-- Re-live the past with the Panthers Virtual Vault, presented by Baptist Health.

-- Want to watch the Panthers battle the Blues from a suite? RedCon1 wants to make it happen.

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