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Cats and Coffee: Panthers Hitting the Road

by Jameson Olive JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

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 embark on their first multi-game road trip of the season this week, brimming with confidence after a dominating 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at the BB&T Center on Saturday night.

"It was a big win," said Panthers forward Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the team with seven points in five games this season. "Last game, it was unfortunate that we didn't come out hard in the third period. But tonight we did a really good job playing a good three periods. It was a good win.

"I think all of our group should be confident right now. We're doing a really good job of playing all three periods and keeping the puck out of our net. I think our defensive zone has been good, but there's always room to improve."

The Panthers, who are off to an impressive 3-1-1 start to their 2016-17 campaign, will begin their four-game road trip against the Penguins in Pittsburgh before heading north of the border for a meeting with the Maple Leafs in Toronto. After that, the team will head back stateside for back-to-back contests against the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings.

Florida owned a 22-15-4 record on the road last season.

"It's a battle," Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said after Saturday's victory. "You're going on the road. It was nice to get that win tonight, but we've got a four-game road trip coming up."

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

Video: Condensed Game: Avalanche at Panthers

THE GAMES

Tuesday: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will get their first look at last year's Stanley Cup champions when they visit the Consol Energy Center on Tuesday -- the first of three scheduled matchups against the Penguins this season. This contest is expected to be a close one, as Florida succeeding in forcing overtime in all three of its meetings against Pittsburgh last season, owning a 1-0-2 record in those games. In this matchup, look for Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who has recorded 46 points (24-42-46) in 52 career games against the Penguins, to have a very big night against his former team.

Panthers vs. Penguins this season: 0-0-0
TV: FSF Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) 


Thursday: at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m.

One of the NHL's hottest teams will be clashing with one of the game's most prominent up-and-coming talents when the Panthers visit budding superstar Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. Matthews, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, has tallied eight points (5-3-8) through the first five games of his young career, including a spectacular four-goal performance in his debut. In this game, look for Panthers rookie center Denis Malgin, who played alongside Matthews last season in Switzerland, to do everything he can to try and keep up with his former linemate. The Panthers, who owned a 3-1-0 record against the Maple Leafs last season, selected Malgin in the fourth round of the 2015 draft.

Panthers vs. Maple Leafs this season 0-0-0
TV: FSF
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) 


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

The Panthers will kickoff their first of 15 scheduled back-to-backs this season when they visit the First Niagara Center for a matinee matchup against the Sabres on Saturday. The Panthers, who owned a 3-1-0 record against Buffalo last season, will likely turn to goaltender Roberto Luongo in order to secure a win in this contest. Luongo, 37, has been absolutely dominant throughout his career against the Sabres, posting a 17-7-2 record with a 1.92 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 27 appearances.

Panthers vs. Sabres this season: 0-0-0
TV: FSF Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) 

Sunday: at Detroit Red Wings, 5:00 p.m.

In their first repeat meeting of the season, the Panthers will close out their road trip with a visit to Joe Louis Arena for an afternoon game against the Red Wings on Sunday. The Panthers defeated the Red Wings 4-1 at the BB&T Center on Oct. 15, thanks in large part to a career-high three points (1-2-3) from forward Jonathan Marchessault. In this contest, look for Marchessault to have another big night playing alongside Aleksander Barkov on Florida's top line. Barkov, 21, currently ranks second behind Marchessault for the team lead in scoring with five points (2-3-5) in five games.

Panthers vs. Red Wings this season 1-0-0
TV: FSF
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) 


MILESTONE WATCH

- Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle is two assists shy of 300 for his career.

- Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is one goal shy of passing Bryan McCabe, Dmitry Kulikov and Brian Campbell (each with 28 goals) for sole possession of fifth all-time in franchise history for goals by a defenseman.

- Panthers center Derek MacKenzie is three points shy of 100 for his career.

- Panthers forward Shawn Thornton is two points shy of 100 for his career.

- Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is four games shy of 200 for his career.

- Panthers center Vincent Trocheck is four assists shy of 50 for his career.

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

- With a shoot-first mentality and exceptional playmaking ability, Jonathan Marchessaulthas been flourishing in an elevated role with the Panthers this season, recording a team-high seven points (3-4-7) in five games.

"He's got some skill and he's got some speed and he's got some talent," Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said. "Right now, he's worked real well with those top two guys. He's replacing Huberdeau, and that's line been together for a year and a half, but he's stepped in there and we haven't missed a beat.

- The Panthers have been ranked seventh in ESPN's annual Ultimate Standings, reaching the list's top-10 for the first time, while also ranking third among all NHL teams and first among all South Florida sports franchises. 

"We are honored that ESPN the Magazine has chosen the Panthers as the best sports franchise in South Florida and the seventh-best team among the four major sports," said Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko. "Our organization has made great strides over the years both on and off the ice and we are committed to providing our fans with a winning product, great value and first class entertainment, while also giving back to our community."

- How is first-year Panther defenseman Jason Demers enjoy his time in South Florida? Find out from the man himself in the first installment of "Demers' Diary."

- The Panthers recently recalled 23-year-old forward Kyle Rau from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. 

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