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Cats and Coffee: Panthers Ready to Rebound

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 are confident that if they continue to play like they did in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, they'll definitely win a lot more games than they lose heading down the home stretch.

"You can't complain about the effort, the effort was unbelievable," Panthers general manager and interim head coach Tom Rowe said. "We had 74 attempted shots. When you do that, that's what you ask the guys to do. They gave everything they could; everybody stood up for each other, which I thought was great. We just were unlucky. We play like that, we'll win a lot more."

The Panthers (28-23-10) have outshot their opponents twice during their current three-game losing streak, but have only managed to score three combined goals in those contests. 

"We've been having problems lately just burying down on our chances," Panthers winger Jonathan Marchessault said. "If we stick to the process and keep doing the right things, good things will happen to us."

After going a perfect 5-0-0 on their recent road trip, the Panthers believe that they already have all of the right pieces to reach the playoffs this season, but will need to find ways to execute better in an upcoming week that features tough games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars.

"It's easy to get down, easy to get negative and whatnot. But I think, for us, we know that this is the right group; we've got the right group in here," Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic said. "We've got all the pieces. I don't know if it's puck luck or we've got to put pucks more towards the net, but we're all still pretty confident in here that we're going to come down the stretch here and have some success."

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

THE GAMES

Tuesday: Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m.

The Panthers will look to halt their current three-game slide when the Hurricanes (25-25-8) head to the BB&T Center on Tuesday. In this contest, the Panthers are likely going to have to do most of their damage at even strength, as the Hurricanes currently own the league's top-ranked penalty killing unit (86.5 percent). If you're looking for someone to crack Carolina's defense, however, look no further than Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who has tallied 10 points (4-6-10) in his last 10 games.

Panthers vs. Hurricanes this season: 0-1-0
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)

Thursday: at Philadelphia Flyers, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will look to recapture some of their road-trip magic when they head out on a brief one-game trip to faceoff against the Flyers (28-26-7) at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. In this contest, the Panthers should expect a very desperate Flyers team, as Philadelphia enters this week having lost seven of its last nine games. Looking around the lineup, it's safe to say that Jonathan Marchessault could be the one to light the lamp for Florida in this one, as the 26-year-old forward has notched three goals in his last four games.

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

Saturday: Dallas Stars, 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers will kick off a three-game homestand when they return from Philadelphia to host the Stars (24-28-10) at the BB&T Center on Saturday. Florida's offense should been in for a treat in this contest, as the Stars currently own the league's 29th-ranked defense, allowing their opponents to score 3.23 goals per game on average. If anyone can take advantage of Dallas' struggling defense, it's likely to be Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, who has a team-leading seven goals since returning to the lineup from injury on Feb. 2.

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


MATHESON MEETS THE MASSES

It's never easy being the new guy -- except maybe when you're Mike Matheson.

Florida's rookie defenseman was invited to speak at Panthers Booster Club meeting early last week, using his time at the podium to ingratiate himself to his new fanbase by answering questions, telling stories and, of course, signing a few autographs and snapping a few selfies.

"The fans we have down here are so supportive," said Matheson, who has 14 points (5-9-14) in 60 games this season. "We even had some of them cheering us on when we came off the plane at 3:00 a.m. after our last road trip. Whenever I can take some time to meet them and interact with our fans and get to know them on a more personal level, it's pretty fun."

Tweet from @FLPanthersBC: Last night's Booster Club meeting @PanthersIceDen with @mmatheson19 Let's Go Panthers! pic.twitter.com/pqXMxCPfaX

HELPING AT THE HONDA

In an effort to honor the men and women who have or are currently serving our country, the Panthers served as one of several pillar sponsors of the Patriots Outpost at The Honda Classic golf tournament this past weekend.   

As a way of showing appreciation to every branch of the armed services, the Patriots Outpost provided reservists, dependents and veterans with free access to covered seating and open sightlines to all of the action at The Honda Classic's signature 17th hole, as well as food and beverage.

"As Veteran's causes are a pillar of our Foundation, the Patriots Outpost at the Honda Classic was a natural tie-in for us," said John Colombo, Director of Community Relations for the Panthers. "We are proud that our Community Champions program allows us to support our local community."

For the duration of the four-day tournament, numerous spectators were also given the opportunity to write messages on a tribute wall located just outside the Patriots Outpost, which will be delivered to members of the United States Armed Forces serving in Florida and around the world. 

MILESTONE WATCH

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

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

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

-- In his latest diary entry, defenseman Jason Demers revisits Florida's impressive 5-0-0 road trip, including a wild, back-and-forth game against his former team, the San Jose Sharks.

"Honestly, that game against the Sharks was probably the worst game we played on the entire road trip, but we still found a way to win," Demers wrote of the 6-5 victory. "Anytime you can find a way to win, especially at this point in the season, it's a huge confidence builder."

The season-long fight back into the playoff picture has been an impressive uphill climb for the Panthers, one that culminated in a franchise-first five-game sweep through a cavalcade of Western Conference contenders this past week. 

"It felt, for a while there, that it was tough to string together a few games together at a time," said Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad, who scored three goals on the trip. "I think you learn from that. Obviously we had some new guys added to the team and there were some adjustments there, but now there's no excuse." 

-- The Panthers recalled rookie center Denis Malgin from their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, on Sunday. 

-- The Panthers will host an NHL 100 event on Fort Lauderdale Beach, located at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade at the corner of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard, on Friday, March 3, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

-- The Panthers will hold a special Panther Conservation Night on March 10. 

 

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