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Cats & Coffee: Ekblad off to hot start at World Cup, Name Springfield’s Mascot

by Jameson Olive / Florida Panthers

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.

It might only be the pre-tournament round, but at least one Florida Panthers player is already making a big name for himself on the international stage at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Aaron Ekblad, who signed an eight-year contract extension with the Panthers this offseason, scored twice to help North America beat Europe 7-4 on Sunday night in his second of three exhibition games. Ekblad, who is also serving as one of North America’s alternate captains, is currently ranked second among defenseman with three points (2-1—3) through the first two games of the pre-tournament round.

“There's a time to work and there's a time to rest. Right now is a time to work,” Ekblad said in his official World Cup blog. “During the tournament, we can have rest days and recuperate after we learn the systems, after we've nailed down the details and created space for ourselves. So that's what (the coaches) kind of pushing onto us.”

From Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016, Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen will be representing the Panthers during this exciting best-on-best international hockey championship. Trocheck is playing alongside Ekblad on North America, while Barkov and Jokinen are both competing for Finland, with Jokinen serving as one of the team’s alternate captains.

Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant, who was an All-Star and finalist for the Jack Adams trophy last season, is also serving as an assistant coach for North America.

The World Cup of Hockey continues this week with the final games of the pre-tournament round on Tuesday and Wednesday. Things will get serious later in the week, however, as the preliminary round is slated to begin on Saturday.

Make sure to check back on Thursday for our full World Cup preview, which will include schedules, statistics and other useful bits of information.

This week’s schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, Sept. 13
Team Finland vs. Team USA - Verizon Center; Washington, DC
7 p.m. ET - ESPN, SN1, TVA Sports

Wednesday, Sept.14
Team Czech Republic vs. Team North America - CONSOL Energy Center; Pittsburgh
3:30 p.m. ET - ESPN3, SN, SN1, TVA Sports

Team Canada vs. Team Russia - CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh
7:30 p.m. ET - ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports

Team Sweden vs. Team Europe - Verizon Center; Washington, DC
7 p.m. ET - ESPN3, SN360, TVA Sports 2

Saturday, Sept. 17 (Preliminary Round Begins)

Team USA vs. Team Europe - Air Canada Centre, Toronto

3:30 p.m. ET - ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports

Team Czech Republic vs. Team Canada - Air Canada Centre, Toronto

8 p.m. ET - ESPNEWS, SN, TVA Sports

Sunday, Sept. 18

Team Sweden vs. Team Russia – Air Canada Centre, Toronto

3 p.m. ET - ESPN, SN, TVA Sports

Team North America vs. Team Finland – Air Canada Centre, Toronto

8 p.m. ET - ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports

PANTHERS AT WEST POINT

In the final tune-up of the preseason, the Panthers will travel to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., on Saturday, Oct. 8 to battle the New Jersey Devils at Tate Rink, the home of Army Hockey.

Luckily for you, it was recently announced that the game will be televised on FOX Sports Florida, with play-by-play announcer Steve “Goldie” Goldstein and color analyst Denis Potvin providing viewers with expert commentary alongside analyst Randy Moller.

“This unique setting matches the Panthers’ ownership’s strong ties with West Point – an extraordinary institution,” said FOX Sports Florida SVP / General Manager Steve Tello. “We’re honored to be able to bring Panthers fans this television event before the start of the regular season.”

The Panthers’ preseason game at West Point marks the team’s fourth visit to the Military Academy, having previously visited West Point for team-building trips in 1995, 2007 and 2014.

The game will also be streamed live via the FOX Sports GO app and www.FOXSportsGO.com.

THE NAME GAME

The Springfield Thunderbirds need your help to name their new mascot.

If you are interested in playing the name game with Florida’s new American Hockey League affiliate, a “Name the Mascot” submission form can be found on the team’s newly launched website. The winner of the contest will be awarded four tickets to the Thunderbirds’ Opening Night game on Saturday, Oct. 22, as well as the opportunity to take part in the team’s “High Five Tunnel.”

“Name the Mascot” submissions will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. ET Friday afternoon.

VALUE PACK

Whether it's a family outing or a night out with your best friends, the Panthers’ recently unveiled Value Pack is a great way to make sure that you don’t miss any of the action at the BB&T Center during the upcoming season.

The Value Pack features four tickets, one parking pass and Flex Bucks, which can be used to purchase Panthers merchandise at the BB&T Center in Pantherland or food and beverages at Coca-Cola Stands while you are at the game.

The available Value Pack options are as follows:

The Lower End Package includes seats in the Lower Bowl and $60 in Flex Bucks to share amongst your group.

The Club End Package includes $50 in Flex Bucks to share amongst your group.

The Upper End Package includes seats in the Upper Bowl and $40 in Flex Bucks.

One-fourth of the bucks for each package will be pre-loaded on to each ticket. For example, the Lower End Package would come with $15 loaded on to each ticket. Multiple tickets can be used towards a transaction.

Click here to learn more about this great offer.

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

- The Panthers will kick off their preseason with a four-team rookie tournament at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Fla., from Sept. 17-20.

- In conjunction with the NHL, the NHLPA and USA Hockey, the Panthers launched their “Learn to Play” program last week for boys and girls ages 4-8 who have never participated in an organized ice hockey program. If you are interested in attending a future camp, please visit FloridaPanthers.com/LearnToPlay.

- The Panthers have partnered with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, for Hockey Fights Cancer.

- How does Jonathan Huberdeau feel about his new six-year contract extension and “Huby Dooby Do” nickname? Find out in our informative Q&A with the exciting playmaker.

- The Panthers have signed forward Justin Fontaine and defenseman Adam Pardy to professional tryouts.

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