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Driedger Back in Net as Panthers Homestand Continues vs. Wild

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/3/19 Morning Skate

12/3/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Brian Boyle.

  • 01:25 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Chris Driedger is expected to make his second straight start in net when the Florida Panthers continue their massive homestand against the Minnesota Wild at BB&T Center on Tuesday night.

In the first of a franchise-record nine consecutive games the Panthers will play on home ice, Driedger became the first goalie in team history to earn a shutout in the first start of his NHL career after stopping all 27 shots he faced in Saturday's 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

Prior to his call-up last week, Driedger ranked first in the AHL with a .938 save percentage.

"The guys were pretty excited about the challenge, and I thought they responded in kind," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "[Driedger] did very well, too. It was a good start for his career. He took advantage of a good opportunity."

Before finally making the first start of his NHL career, Driedger certainly paid his dues in the minors. A third-round pick (76th overall) of the Ottawa Senators back in the 2012 NHL Draft, the 25-year-old netminder suited up in 138 AHL and 75 ECHL games over the last six seasons.

We all know how hard it is to get to this league and have success," Panthers center Brian Boyle said. "When stuff like that happens throughout the year, it's always awesome… That's a special moment for him that he's always going to remember his whole life. To be a part of that is really cool."

Helping Driedger in his debut, Quenneville said the team had one of its best defensive showings of the season against Nashville. Of the 40 shots the Predators attempted while at 5-on-5, only four came from high-danger areas -- the fewest allowed by Florida in a game so far this season.

"It was a game where we played the way we want to progress over the course of the season," Quenneville said. "Over our first 26 [games], that was probably our most-effective game."

As they improve on defense, the Panthers have showed no signs of slowing down in the goal-scoring department. Owning the league's fifth-ranked offense (3.50) and eighth-ranked power play (22.5 percent), they've registered at least three goals in eight of their last 10 contests.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are tied for the team-scoring lead with 31 points apiece. Over the last 14 games, the top-line duo has combined to post 12 goals and 24 assists. Brett Connolly, meanwhile, paces the club with 12 goals, including six in his last seven games.

"We've never had a problem scoring goals this year with this group," Quenneville said. "We like the offense. We think that's going to be a strength of our team, the ability to score. The power play helps as well. We always say we're not worried about scoring goals. If we can check well, we're going to be ok."

With a 13-8-5 record, the Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division. They are also 7-3-2 at home this season and have won four of their last five games played in Sunrise.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has struggled a bit on the road.

Although they've gone 7-1-2 at home, the Wild have lost 12 of their first 17 road games. That being said, they do have points in each of their last three road games and enter tonight's tilt on a three-game winning streak, including a 3-2 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday.

Eric Staal leads the team in scoring with 19 points, including two goals and three assists over his last six games. Zach Parise, meanwhile, paces the club with 12 goals, while Jason Zucker has potted nine. In 35 career games against Florida, Parise has notched 13 goals and 13 assists. The Panthers have won each of their last two home games against the Wild.

"I think we've just got to come out hard," Huberdeau said. "They're playing really well. I think Nashville was the same thing. Let's just focus on us. Obviously we know every game's going to be tough, so we've just got to focus on our game, keep it simple out there and play smart."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Keith Yandle ranks first among Florida's defensemen in points (21) and also ranks fourth among the league's blueliners in assists (19). Over his last two games, the 33-year-old has tallied three helpers while taking the ice for more than 25 minutes during each contest.

-- Brett Connolly leads the Panthers with 12 goals. The 27-year-old winger also ranks fifth on the team in points (19) and has racked up six goals and two assists over his last eight games.

-- Vincent Trocheck has six points (one goal, five assists) over his last six games. The 26-year-old winger leads Florida in takeaways (24) and enters tonight riding a three-game point streak

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (24:08), while also leading the club's defensemen in goals (5). Over his last five games, the 23-year-old has notched two goals and three assists, including the first multi-goal game of his career on Nov. 21 against Anaheim.

-- Evgenii Dadonov is tied for second on Florida in goals (10) and tied for third in points (21). The 30-year-old winger registered his 100th career assist in Saturday's win over Nashville.

-- Anton Stralman scored his first two goals of the season to help lead the Panthers past the Predators on Saturday. The fourth multi-goal game of his career, the 33-year-old defenseman also leads the team in blocks (38) and ranks second in average ice time per game (21:11).

-- Mike Hoffman leads the Panthers in shots (77) and ranks tied for second in goals (10).

-- Brian Boyle leads Florida with a 57.1 faceoff win percentage.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Brett Connolly - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin

Frank Vatrano - Brian Boyle - Mike Hoffman

Dominic Toninato - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

MacKenzie Weegar - Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk

Goalies

Chris Driedger

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: Josh Brown, Jayce Hawryluk (upper-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Nov. 25: G Chris Driedger recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Nov. 25: G Sam Montembeault loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Nov. 25: D Riley Stillman was loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Nov. 24: D Riley Stillman was recalled from AHL Springfield.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle

- Holiday Ornaments for Sale at Foundation Table

- Nacho Tot Tuesday

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Tickets: HERE

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