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 heading home with plenty to be thankful for after a 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday night helped the them end their four-game road trip with an impressive 3-1-0 record.
"We're a pretty happy team with the wins we are stringing together," said Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who has goals in three of his last four games. "We look to play tight games and limit chances."
The Panthers, who have won five of their last seven games, will look to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings this week when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets for a special Thanksgiving Homestand the BB&T Center.
In recent games, the Panthers (10-8-1) have benefited from the stellar play of their top-tier goaltending tandem - Roberto Luongo and James Reimer - who stopped a combined 72 of 75 shots in back-to-back victories over the weekend.
"He had a great bounce back game for him," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of Reimer after Sunday's game. "I'm real happy for him. The team worked hard ... but he had a huge effort tonight. That gave us the two points."
With another back-to-back scheduled for this week - Saturday against Philadelphia and Sunday at Carolina - Reimer and Luongo will need to remain a solid one-two punch in net as the Panthers attempt to recapture one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division.
Here's everything you need to know for the week ahead…
Tuesday: Philadelphia Flyers, 7:30 p.m.
Following a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting on Saturday, the Flyers (8-8-3) shouldn't expect any sort of reprieve when they travel across the state to battle the Panthers at the BB&T Center on Tuesday. The Panthers, who owned a 2-1-0 record against Philadelphia last season, should expect to light the lamp more than once in this contest, as the Flyers currently own the league's 30th-ranked defense and have held opponents to two-or-fewer goals in just five games this season. Vincent Trocheck, who has tallied a point in four of his last five games, has six points (1-5-6) in six career games against the Flyers.
Panthers vs. Flyers this season: 0-0-0
TV: FSF Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward); 760 WEFL (Palm Beaches)
Saturday: Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:00 p.m.
The Panthers will get their first look at one of the league's biggest surprises when the Blue Jackets (10-4-2) visit the BB&T Center on Saturday. After finishing last in the Metropolitan Division last season, the upstart Blue Jackets currently boast the league's second-ranked offense (3.38 goals per game) and have won seven of nine games in November. The Panthers, who owned a 2-0-1 record against Columbus last season, will likely turn to Roberto Luongo in this contest, as the 37-year-old goaltender boasts a 2.19 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 26 career games against the Blue Jackets.
Panthers vs. Blue Jackets this season 0-0-0
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward)
Sunday: at Carolina Hurricanes, 6:00 p.m.
After their two-game homestand, the Panthers will head to Raleigh for a date with the red-hot Hurricanes (7-6-4) at the PNC Arena on Sunday. The Panthers, who owned a 3-0-0 record against Carolina last season, should expect their offense to be tested in this contest, as the Hurricanes have held opponents to one-or-fewer goals in three of their last four games and currently own the league's top-ranked penalty kill (91.3 percent). Aleksander Barkov, who scored the game-winning shootout goal on Sunday, has five points (2-3-5) in eight career games against the Hurricanes.
Panthers vs. Hurricanes this season: 0-0-0
TV: FSF Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward)
- Panthers forward Shawn Thornton is two points shy of 100 for his career.
- Panthers center Vincent Trocheck is four points shy of 100 for his career.
- Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is two assists shy of 50 for his career.
- Panthers forward Reilly Smith is eight assists shy of 150 for his career.
- Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen is four assists shy of 350 for his career.
- Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo is four wins shy of his 447th victory, which would move him to a tie with Terry Sawchuk for fifth place on the NHL's all-time list.
The Panthers would like to invite everyone in the South Florida community - both fans and friends - to donate frozen turkeys anytime between 4-7 p.m. at the BB&T Center on Monday.
In addition meet-and-greets with Panthers broadcasters and staff, fans will also be given two tickets to an upcoming home game for each frozen turkey donated.
Last season, the organization succeeding in collecting over 3,500 pounds of turkey to support local families in Broward County over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"That's a lot of bird," Panthers forward Shawn Thornton said after last year's Turkey Drive. "It was a great thing set up by the team and very nice of people to take time out of their day to come and show their support."
ICEDEN TURNS 20
The Panthers IceDen celebrated its 20th anniversary on Saturday.
"It's a pretty remarkable accomplishment when you're doing something for this long and being as successful as we are," Panthers IceDen General Manager Keith Fine said. "We're just trying to continue building upon the programs that we've been doing for the last 20 years and being able to offer a service to the community."
A state-of-the-art recreational skating and entertainment complex, the IceDen first opened its doors on November 21st, 1996. The 125,000 sq. ft. building houses three separate rinks and has long been heralded as the premier destination for figure skating and youth hockey in South Florida.
"We're always looking to adapt," Fine said. "We're always looking to provide more opportunities, more programs and more clinics for our customers to enjoy. At the end of the day, that's what's helped us build our program and made us successful."
Looking ahead, the greatest success of the IceDen will likely continue to be its youth hockey program, which, Fine says, will balloon from 10 to 25 travel teams over the next three years by adding five additional teams each year.
"Our absolute important goal is to make sure that we really grow our youth hockey program from the grassroots level," Fine said. "We've provided more opportunities for clinics, programs on the ice, and we've brought in coaches from around the country that can really relate to this kids and help them develop."
Already the official youth travel organization of the Panthers, the Junior Panthers saw five alumni selected in the 2016 NHL Draft, including first-round pick Jakob Cychrun (Arizona Coyotes) and second-round pick Andrew Peeke (Columbus Blue Jackets).
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
- The Panthers recently acquired forward Michael Sgarbossa from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Logan Shaw.
- In the latest installment of "Demers' Diary," the Panthers defenseman discussed an exciting turning point in the team's season and his recent visit to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami.
"It's humbling to do things like that and I've always tried to do as many of those visits as I can throughout my career," Demers writes of the visit. "It kind of brings things into perspective and reminds us how lucky we are to play a sport for a living and do what we do."
- Springfield Thunderbirds goaltender Reto Berra was selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 13, 2016.