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Cats and Coffee: Panthers Re-Energized

by Jameson Olive JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/3/17 Postgame Interviews

2/3/17 Postgame Interviews

Interviews with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, James Reimer and Jason Demers after the Panthers' 2-1 win against the Ducks

  • 01:37 •

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.

With Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov back in the lineup, the Florida Panthers look re-energized and ready to start their push for the playoffs, entering this week on the heels of an exciting 2-1 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at the BB&T Center on Friday.

"When you get guys back like that that have been out for a while it brings a certain energy and a buzz to the team," Panthers defenseman Jason Demers said. "That enthusiasm, I think it picks up a lot of the morale. I think, especially getting [Huberdeau] and [Barkov] back, I think we downplayed a bit, but it's for sure nice to have them back. They're great players and they've been chomping at the bit and working hard get back."

Huberdeau, the third-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, had been out of the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury in a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils in West Point, N.Y., on Oct. 9. Barkov, the second-overall pick in 2013, had missed the last 15 games with an injury of his own.

"I had a lot of fun out there," said Huberdeau, who scored the game-winning goal in his first game back from injury. "It wasn't my best game. I was a little tired by the end. But for my first game, I'm pretty happy with myself and the team. We played pretty well. It was a good team on the other side. [Panthers goaltender James Reimer] made some huge saves at the end. We played a good game overall. I think it just felt good to be back with the guys."

Video: ANA@FLA: Huberdeau scores in season debut

With a victory against Anaheim, the now-healthy Panthers (23-19-10) enter this week trailing the Boston Bruins by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division with three games in hand. Florida also trails the Philadelphia Flyers by three points for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand.

"They're great players and they're great guys," said Reimer, who earned the 100th victory of his career on Friday. "They're fun to have in the locker room. Obviously, you've seen what they can do out there. I thought we played some good hockey while they were out and battled hard. I know that now that they're in here, we'll keep the train going and chugging along and hopefully keep picking up points."

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

THE GAMES

Thursday: Los Angeles Kings, 7:30 p.m.

The Panthers will look to extend their season-high winning streak to four games when the Kings (27-22-4) visit the BB&T Center on Thursday. In recent weeks, the Kings' fourth-ranked defense (2.36 goals allowed per game) has been even more formidable than usual, allowing one goal or fewer in four of their last six games. That being said, look for Panthers center Aleksander Barkov to be the one to find a crack in Los Angeles' defense, as the 21-year-old center has notched two goals in three career games against the Kings. 

Panthers vs. Kings 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); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward; 760 WEFL (Palm Beach)

Saturday: at Nashville Predators, 2:00 p.m.

The Panthers will kick off a five-game road trip against the Western Conference with an afternoon matchup against the Predators (25-19-8) at the Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. The Panthers, who defeated Nashville 2-1 on Jan. 6 at the BB&T Center, will need their power play to be on point in this game, as the Predators have allowed just one goal when opponent's have had an extra attacker in their last six games. In this contest, look for Reilly Smith to play a big role on special teams, as the two-way forward leads the Panthers with six power-play goals this season.

Panthers vs. Predators this season 1-0-0
TV: FSF English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

TROCHECK HONORED 

Only a few days after he was honored as an NHL All-Star, Panthers center Vincent Trocheck returned to his old junior hockey stomping grounds to watch the Saginaw Spirit raise his No. 89 jersey into the rafters of The Dow Event Center on Feb. 1.

The Spirit's second-round pick in the 2009 OHL Draft, Trocheck played three full seasons in Saginaw before the Spirit traded him to Plymouth during the 2012-13 season.

Trocheck, 23, is Saginaw's second-leading scorer in franchise history with 94 goals and 146 assists in 236 career games with the Spirit. His 146 assists are the most in team history. 

"Considering all the great hockey players that have played for the Saginaw Spirit over the past 15 seasons, I am very much honored to be the first Spirit (alumnus) to have my jersey retired," Trocheck said in a release. "My time as a player for the Saginaw Spirit helped me to develop my career both on and off the ice. I am very grateful, and I won't ever forget what the organization has done for me."

A third-round pick (64th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck has 18 goals and 34 points in 52 games for the Panthers this season.

WRESTLING NIGHT

It promises to be an exciting night of slap shots and suplexes when the Panthers host the organization's first-ever Pro Wrestling Night on Thursday, Feb. 9 against the Los Angeles Kings at the BB&T Center.

In addition to a VIP meet-and-greet autograph session with WWE legends Tommy Dreamer, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Jay Reso FKA Christian, fans that purchase the Pro Wrestling Night ticket package will also take home a commemorative puck to add to their collections. 

Ticket packages start as low as $56 per person and can be purchased here. 

REDDIT AMA

Have you ever wondered what it's like to sharpen the skates of the greats?

Well, you can find out this week, as Panthers Head Equipment Manager Teddy Richards will answer all of your questions about life in the locker room during another Panthers-themed Reddit AMA on Monday at 11 a.m. ET.

 Tweet from @FlaPanthers: ��(cc: @RedditHockey) pic.twitter.com/Z4GCPRnZou

MILESTONE WATCH

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

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

- Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle is four points away from 400 for his career.

- Panthers center Vincent Trocheck is two games away from 200 for his career.

- Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is 10 points away from 100 for his career.

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

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

"I thought it was probably one of the best games we've played as a team all season. I think, you know, we limited chances and, you know, obviously a good team, they're getting a few [chances] here and there. But I thought we controlled a lot of what the chances were. When guys are playing that well, controlling the game, it makes the job lot easier for you. You get set, you get to your places, and you see the puck." - Panthers goaltender James Reimer on Friday's victory against Anaheim.

"[James Reimer] is unbelievable. He's a character, character guy. He's had a very emotional week, with the baby and going through that adjustment in his life. For him to be able to come in and play the way he did tonight, especially with those two huge saves in the third period, was unbelievable." - Panthers general manager and interim head coach Tom Rowe on James Reimer.

"When you miss four months of playing, your first goal is always special. I think that's the way it was tonight. I kind of fanned on it, too, and it went in. I think it felt pretty good. Now, it's just focusing on getting better and stronger." - Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau on scoring the game-winning goal in his first game back from injury.

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- It's Miami Marlins Night at the BB&T Center again! If you're a fan of the Fish, then you're in luck, as the first 75 fans to purchase tickets will get a chance to snap a few pictures with Marlins players Tom Koehler, JT Realmuto, Dee Gordon and Derek Dietrich. 

-- The Panthers walked the red carpet last week, swapping their sweaters for suits in an effort to raise money at the second-annual Cats & Cocktails event at Louie Bossi's Ristorante in downtown Fort Lauderdale. 

"It's pretty amazing and it's really awarding," Florida Panthers Foundation Executive Director Lauren Simone said. "The players are so generous when they come here and they know that every dollar they raise goes out to the community."

-- As part of their continued commitment to youth hockey and community outreach initiatives, the Panthers partnered with JetBlue to brighten the day of a few new hockey fans with a special street hockey clinic at the BB&T Center last week. 

"I think it's great," Panthers Director of Community Relations John Colombo said of the clinic. "It gives us a chance to give back to the community. JetBlue has always been a great partner with us involving our street hockey clinics overseas, so it's great to be able to do one here locally and put some sticks in kids hands."

-- In the latest installment of his monthly mailbag, Panthers rookie defenseman Mike Matheson answers several burning questions, including giving fans an update on he's holding up through the halfway point of the season.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Matheson writes. "I think that last year kind of helped a lot in adjusting to playing so many more games. I'd definitely say that it's much more of a grind, especially this year with the condensed schedule. We're playing pretty much every second night. So, yeah, it's been a bit of an adjustment. I've just been looking up to the older guys to see what I can learn from that."

-- 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! 

-- It's almost time to celebrate everybody's favorite feline's big day! Wish Stanley C. Panther a happy birthday for your chance to win two tickets to a special birthday celebration game on Feb. 26. 

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