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Cats and Coffee: Heading into the All-Star Break

by Jameson Olive JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/22/17 Practice

1/22/17 Practice

Interviews with Tom Rowe, Vincent Trocheck and Mark Pysyk

  • 01:36 •

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.

Although the Florida Panthers have been plagued by injuries for the majority of their 2016-17 campaign, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player or coach ready to use that unfortunate fact as an excuse as the team looks to secure a few much needed victories heading into the All-Star Break.

"Everybody has injuries and we're not using it as an excuse - we're not going to let anybody use it - we just have to be more consistent from coaches to veterans to young kids," Panthers coach Tom Rowe said after Sunday's practice in Arizona. "We had a real good discussion today of keeping things positive. When things are going great, it's easy to be positive, it's easy to be happy; everybody's patting each other on the back. The real test of a good team, a real-high character team is how you handle the adversity."

The Panthers (20-19-9) are currently playing without two-thirds of their top line, as Jonathan Huberdeau has yet to play this season because of a lower-body injury sustained Oct. 8 in Florida's final preseason game and Aleksander Barkov has been sidelined since Dec. 28 with an upper-body injury. Nick Bjugstad and Alex Petrovic, meanwhile, have also both missed substantial time due to injuries of their own.

That being said, the Panthers remain focused on only what they can control as the team prepares for a pair of key games this week against the Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning before taking a few days off for this weekend's All-Star Break.

"You can't expect or wait for guys to come back," said Panthers center Vincent Trocheck, who is averaging the most ice time among Florida's forwards (21:40) and the third-most among all NHL forwards behind Chicago's Patrick Kane and Anaheim's Ryan Kesler. 

"You never know when guys will get healthy, or if they'll get healthy. We have the team that we have so we have to play our hardest with the guys we have. We've got to be the ones to make a push for the playoffs."

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

THE GAMES

Monday: at Arizona Coyotes, 9:00 p.m.

The Panthers will attempt to lock up an important two points when they close out their four-game road trip with a matchup against the Coyotes (14-26-6) at the Gila River Arena on Monday. The Panthers, who owned a 1-1-0 record against Arizona last season, should expect a good night on offense in the first meeting between the two clubs this season, as the Coyotes have allowed three-or-more goals in each of their last six games. In this contest, look for Keith Yandle, who played eight seasons with the Coyotes, to find the scoresheet against his former team, as the 30-year-old defenseman has five points (1-4-5) in his last seven games.

Panthers vs. Coyotes this season: 0-0-0
TV: FSF English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Thursday: Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m.

The Panthers will look to get the best of their intrastate rivals for the second straight game when the Lightning visit the BB&T Center on Thursday. Tampa Bay, which suffered a 3-1 loss in its last visit to Sunrise on Nov. 7, enters this week having lost eight of its last 10 games, including a 5-3 loss to Arizona on Saturday. In this contest, look for Jared McCann to play a key role in helping his Panthers teammates find the back of the net, as the 20-year-old forward has tallied three assists in his last three games.

Panthers vs. Lightning this season 1-0-1
TV: FSF English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) *WAXE start time 8:00 PM; Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward; 760 WEFL (Palm Beach)

MILESTONE WATCH

- Panthers forward Reilly Smith is one assist away from 100 for his career.

- Panthers goaltender James Reimer is two wins away from of 100 for his career.

- Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle is one game away from competing in his 600th consecutive NHL game.

- Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr is three points away from 1,900 for his career.

- Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo needs seven victories to surpass Curtis Joseph for sole possession of fourth place on the NHL's all-time wins list.  

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

"I don't think they're having the year that they were obviously hoping for, but they're a good young team that plays with a lot of speed. We need to obviously take it to them and take our speed and use that to our advantage." - Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk on Monday's matchup with Arizona.

"We've had a little bit of a slide the last few games and haven't been playing our best hockey. Tomorrow is just going to be focusing on us and making sure we play the right way. We all know our roles. We've got to kind of solidify our role and figure out what we're doing in order to get [the win]." - Panthers center Vincent Trocheck on the road ahead.

"He's fit in terrific. We're getting to know him real well. He's such a positive influence on our young guys and our locker room in general." Panthers coach Tom Rowe on defenseman Keith Yandle.

TRO-CHECK OUT ALL-STAR WEEKEND

While the rest of his teammates enjoy a few days off, Vincent Trocheck will take center stage at the NHL's mid-season showcase, representing the Panthers for the first time in his career at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.

"It's pretty unbelievable," Trocheck, 23, said of the honor. "I didn't expect it. It's a great honor and I'm super excited to go… Not very many people get to do it in their lifetime, so it'll be a lot of fun to share it with my family."

NHL All-Star Weekend will be held Jan. 28-29 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, beginning with the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. ET and concluding with the NHL All-Star Tournament on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

As it was last year, the NHL All-Star Tournament will feature three 20-minute games of 3-on-3 hockey, with star players from each division making up the four All-Star teams -- Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan -- in a winner-take-all format.

The Central Division will play the Pacific Division in one 20-minute semifinal game, and the Metropolitan All-Stars will play the Atlantic squad in the other. The winners of the semifinals will meet in the 20-minute championship game for a prize of $1 million that will be split evenly among each victorious player.

Trocheck will play for the Atlantic Division team, which also includes Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, Boston's Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, Montreal's Shea Weber and Carey Price, Toronto's Auston Matthews, Detroit's Frans Nielsen, Buffalo's Kyle Okposo and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

"We're all proud of him," Panthers coach Tom Rowe said of Trocheck's All-Star selection. "He's a heck of a competitor to match the skill that he has. That's what makes him such a good player and a dangerous player. He competes at an incredibly high level."

At the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, players will have a chance to showcase their own personal strengths, as well as their creativity, as all 44 all-stars are required to compete in at least one of six different events that usually produce as many laughs as highlights.

The following events will be part of this year's skills competition:

· Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay
· Honda NHL Four Line Challenge
· DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting
· Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
· Oscar Mayer NHL Hardest Shot
· Discover NHL Shootout

A third-round pick (64th overall) of the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck leads the Panthers with 32 points this season. The Pittsburgh, Penn., native also ranks first in goals (17), fifth in assists (15) and second in shots on goal (131). 

BOOK DRIVE

Have a few books gathering dust on your shelf? Well, we know a good way you can make good use of that unused paper while also enjoying some puck-related action at the BB&T Center this week.

In conjunction with Children's Services Council of Broward County, the Panthers will host a book drive on Thursday, Jan. 26 when the team hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring new or used books to the JetBlue Tarmac outside of the arena prior to the matchup.

The Children's Services Council of Broward County, which aims to raise awareness about children's literacy and make sure all local schools have enough resources for students, was also awarded a grant of $25,000 from the Florida Panthers Foundation as part of the Community Champions Program.

Tweet from @FlaPanthersPR: #FlaPanthers to host book drive on 1/26 @cscbroward. Details ����https://t.co/JbwCU6rHTf pic.twitter.com/FLS4eryJEI

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- In his latest diary entry, Jason Demers opens up about how great it was to spend some quality time with his father, Darrell, during the Panthers' recent Dads' Trip.

"My dad was my coach for most of my younger years," Demers writes. "He's always been a big influence on my hockey career and is the main reason that I started playing the game. At times, he still thinks that he's my coach and I'm sure he'll always partly have that feeling."

-- Adam Mascherin, a second-round pick of the Panthers in 2016, is lighting up the Ontario Hockey League this season, hoping that his stellar play will someday lead him to the NHL.

"I'm just working on rounding out my game," Mascherin said of his focus. "In the offensive zone, there's obviously parts you can teach, but there are also things you can't teach. I think I have some of that natural ability to create offense, for sure. Right now, it's more about rounding out my 200-foot game and making sure that I'm ready for the pros."

-- In an effort to continue improving the local community, the Florida Panthers Foundation Community Champions Grant Program, presented by Moss Construction and the Moss Foundation, recently awarded Canine Assisted Therapy with a $10,000 donation to help further their cause.

"We reached over 300,000 lives in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties last year," said Joanne Jurgle, who serves as the organization's executive director. "From two-year-olds to 102-year-olds and every population in between, dogs don't judge. They provide unconditional love. No matter where we go or who we visit, the dogs love them just the same as the person next to them."

-- Need to get a present for that special someone in your life? The Panthers' Valentine's Day ticket package, which starts at just $29,is now on sale!

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