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.
After finishing 1-3-1 on their recent five-game road trip, the Florida Panthers enter this week two points behind the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division with just over a month remaining in the regular season.
“It wasn't a good road trip for us,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Arizona. “We should've played better. We didn't have our 60-minute games that it takes to win in this league. It cost us on this road trip, but we got to forget about and look forward to the next three games at home."
The top-defensive team in the league less than two weeks ago, the Panthers have struggled in recent games to keep the puck out of their own net, allowing three-or-more goals in four of their last five games.
If they hope to curb their current slide, the team will need to rediscover its defensive identity while facing off against a trio of offensively gifted, playoff-hungry teams during a three-game homestand this week at the BB&T Center.
“We need to play the same way we were when we were winning games, get that confidence back,” center Aleksander Barkov said after Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “We need to get to the playoffs. That’s our main goal.’’
Here’s what you need to know for the week ahead…
Monday: Boston Bruins, 7:30 p.m.
The Bruins, who have won 9 of their last 11 games on the road, will attempt to overtake the Panthers for second place in the division when they visit the BB&T Center on Monday. Boston, which boasts the third-ranked offense in the league, has handed Florida a pair of 3-1 losses in each of their two previous meetings this season. In this contest, the Panthers will need exceptional play both offensively and defensively from their forwards as they attempt to match the play of Boston’s perennial Selke Trophy nominee, Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and five assists in his last seven games against Florida.
Panthers vs. Bruins this season: 0-2-0
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) Spanish: 1210 WNMA (Dade/Broward); 760 WEFL (Palm Beaches)Thursday: Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m.
In their second-to-last meeting of the season, the Panthers will have a great opportunity to secure a crucial two points when a Senators team just outside of the playoff picture visits the BB&T Center on Thursday. Ottawa, which boasts the eighth-ranked offense in the league, is currently tied with New Jersey and Carolina for 10th in the Eastern Conference, six points back of Detroit for the last wild-card spot. The Panthers, who have already taken two of three against the Senators this season, will need to match Ottawa’s desperation in this contest if they hope to come away with a victory. Panthers vs. Senators this season 2-1-0
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) Spanish: 1210 WNMA (Dade/Broward); 760 WEFL (Palm Beaches)
Saturday: Philadelphia Flyers, 7:00 p.m.
The Panthers will be looking for a repeat performance of their Opening Night scoring explosion when the Flyers visit the BB&T Center on Saturday. In their first meeting of the season, Vincent Trocheck notched a season-high four points and three assists in a 7-1 victory over Philadelphia on Oct. 10. The Flyers, who are currently just four points back of Detroit for the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games thanks in large part to the exceptional paly of rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a Pembroke Pines, Fla., native.Panthers vs. Flyers this season: 1-1-0
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 97.7 WAVK (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast) Spanish: 1210 WNMA (Dade/Broward)
KEEP AN EYE ONTurning Back the Clock
It’s the return of the rat!
The Panthers will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their improbable run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the “Year of the Rat” legend it spawned, with a pre-game ceremony before Saturday’s game against the Flyers.
Among the players, coaches and staff confirmed for the event are Scott Mellanby, John Vanbiesbrouck, Ed Jovanovski, Bill Torrey, Doug Maclean, Bill Lindsay, Johan Garpenlov, Tom Fitzgerald, Brian Skrudland, Jason Woolley, Radek Dvorak, Terry Carkner, Mike Hough, Ray Sheppard, Chuck Fletcher, Bryan Murray, Duane Sutter, Gord Murphy, Dave Smith and Scott Tinkler.
“We are thrilled to welcome so many players and staff from the 1995-96 Stanley Cup Final team back to Florida,” Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko said in a release. “We look forward to honoring their accomplishments and having a great reunion weekend.”
In only their third season of existence, the expansion Panthers defeated the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference finals before ultimately being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final.
As the first playoff team in franchise history, the 1995-96 Panthers squad has always held a special place in both the organization’s history as well as in the hearts of its longtime fans.Jagr’s Next Milestone
After registering the 1,850th point of his legendary career with an assist in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Colorado, Jaromir Jagr needs only one point to surpass Gordie Howe for sole possession of third place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
As a former member of both the Bruins and the Flyers, it’s very possibly that Jagr’s latest milestone will come against one of his previous employers during what is expected to be a riveting slate of games this week at BB&T Center.
Jagr, who has tallied eight points (4-4—8) in his last eight games, currently leads the Panthers in points (48) and holds a share of the team lead in goals (21).Jokinen Looks to Extend Streak
Jussi Jokinen will attempt to extend his season-high point streak to eight games when the Bruins visit the BB&T Center on Monday. He has tallied eight assists during his current run, but has only one assist in his last four contests against the traditionally stingy Bruins.
Jokinen, 32, leads the Panthers in assists (35) and is second in points (46) this season.
Jaromir Jagr leads the Panthers with 17 even-strength goals this season.
Aleskandr Barkov leads the Panthers with 8 power-play goals this season.
The Panthers are 3-1-1 this season when Logan Shaw records a goal.
Four Panthers defensemen have at least one multi-point game this season.
The Panthers haven’t had a player score a hat trick since Tomas Kopecky on Feb. 26, 2013 against Pittsburgh.