Cats & Coffee: Post-Deadline Panthers Prepare to Unveil New Lineup
/ Florida Panthers
Good morning and welcome to “Cats & Coffee,” a weekly segment in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
I promise these last few days weren’t a dream, and that even though your vision may still be impaired by a few globs of sleep in your eyes, these really are the Florida Panthers.
After a wild weekend of trading and upgrading, the Panthers are expected to unveil a new-look lineup on Tuesday in Winnipeg, with newly acquired veterans Jiri Hudler, Teddy Purcell and Jakub Kindl all projected to make their post-deadline debuts with the club.
The Panthers, who currently hold a two-point lead over Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division, hope that the addition of these players will not only add a new element to their often unpredictable special teams, but also bring balance to their scoring attack.
“We [now] have three wonderful scoring lines and a fourth which is invigorated and able to play a very aggressive forechecking style,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said. “We have depth at all positions and this gives our coaches an opportunity for different looks.”
As the Panthers continue to push towards their first postseason appearance since the 2011-12 season, Tallon also hopes that these big-time acquisitions are just what his team needed in order to make the jump from playoff hopeful to legitimate contender.
“This gives us depth at all positions,” Tallon said of the moves. “These guys give us solid experience, playmaking ability, good hockey sense and just completes our team a little bit more and more options. It takes an army to get to the playoffs and hopefully when we get in they could take us deeper.”
Here’s what you need to know for the week ahead…
Tuesday: at Winnipeg Jets, 8:00 p.m.
The Panthers will faceoff against the Jets for the second time in less than two weeks when they visit the MTS Center on Tuesday. In their only previous meeting this season, the Panthers ousted Winnipeg 3-1 behind two goals from Jaromir Jagr on Feb. 21 at BB&T Center. Unlike the Panthers, the Jets (26-31-4) made the decision to be sellers at the trade deadline, sending captain Andrew Ladd to Chicago for 21-year-old forward Marko Dano plus a first-round draft pick this June and another conditional pick. However, although they are depleted, look for Winnipeg’s young talent to remain dangerous and play for pride in this contest. Panthers vs. Jets 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) Spanish: 1210 WNMA (Dade/Broward)
Thursday: at Colorado Avalanche, 9:00 p.m.
The Panthers hope that Thursday’s visit to Colorado (32-28-4) will prove to be just what the team needs to bring their 27th-ranked power play back to the world of the living. In their only previous meeting this season, the Panthers cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Avalanche on Oct. 27 at BB&T Center behind a stellar night from their special teams units, recording three power-play goals and one short-handed goal. This time around, the Panthers will once again be looking to capitalize with the extra attacker as they look to take advantage of Colorado’s 17th-ranked penalty killing unit.
Panthers vs. Avalanche 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) Spanish: 1210 WNMA (Dade/Broward)
Saturday: at Arizona Coyotes, 9:00 p.m.
The Panthers will attempt to claw their way to another victory when they clash with the Coyotes for the second time in less than two weeks on Saturday in Arizona. In their only previous meeting this season, the Panthers edged their four-legged counterparts 3-2 on Feb. 25 at BB&T Center thanks to a pair of goals from Aleksander Barkov. In this contest, look for Barkov to find the scoresheet yet again as the 20-year-old center has notched points in three straight games since returning from an upper-body injury.
The first of Florida’s three trades on Saturday may inevitably prove to be the most important, as the Panthers sent a second-round selection in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2018 to the Calgary Flames for veteran forward Jiri Hudler.
Hudler, a pending unrestricted free agent, recorded 10 goals and 25 assists in 53 games this season for the Flames, but fell short of the expectations that were placed on him after finishing with the ninth-most points in the league last season.
That being said, Hudler has elevated his play in recent weeks, notching 11 points (4-7—11) in his last 12 games, and is expected to play a key offensive role for the Panthers both on the power play and at even strength.
“I saw something coming,” said Hudler, an 11-year NHL veteran. “I'm excited and happy to go with a young team especially the way they play and they're in first place.”
Much like the trade deadline acquisition of Jaromir Jagr did last season, the Panthers hope that another injection of veteran experience into their lineup will help spark the team’s young forwards, especially 23-year-old center Nick Bjugstad, who is expected to play alongside Hudler when top-line winger Jonathan Huberdeau returns from injury.
“I'm the kind of guy who can fit in real easy,” said Hudler, who spent the majority of the past two seasons playing on a line with 22-year-old Johnny Gaudreau and 21-year-old Sean Monahan. “I've always been around the young guys, especially here in Calgary.”
Purcell and Kindl ready for new roles
Not long after capturing headlines with the acquisition of Hudler, the Panthers sent a 2016 third rounder to the Edmonton Oilers for winger Teddy Purcell and a 2017 sixth rounder to the Detroit Red Wings for defenseman Jakub Kindl.
Purcell, who had 11 goals and 32 points in 61 games with the Oilers this season, is expected to join Hudler and Bjugstad on Florida’s revamped third line – a role he is more than happy to embrace.
“I go back to a team in contention and is heading down the stretch so I feel pretty lucky to head there and help them,” Purcell said. “I'm a guy who likes to make plays, keep plays alive. I know they have a lot of skill up front and maybe I could help their power play, too. I don't want to step on anyone's toes, I just want to slide in and be a good piece to the puzzle.”
As for Kindl, who passed through waivers in January, a change of scenery could be exactly what the former first-round pick needs to reignite his once-promising career. The 29-year-old defenseman has spent most of the past two months with Grand Rapids of the AHL, but could potentially play a big role on Florida’s power play in the near future.
“We got a good playmaker, passer and point man on the power play in Kindl,” Tallon said.
-Six Panthers have recorded at least one multi-goal game this season. -The Panthers are 6-0-1 this season when Aleksander Barkov records two-or-more points. -The Panthers are 11-1-1 when playing on Tuesday this season. -The Panthers are 7-1-2 this season when Alex Petrovic records at least one point. -The Panthers added 118 games of playoff experience to their roster with the acquisitions of Jiri Hudler, Teddy Purcell and Jakub Kindl.