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Hoffman on Fire as Panthers Wrap Up Back-to-Back Against Flames

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers will look to secure a key two points in the standings when they wrap up a back-to-back against the Calgary Flames at BB&T Center on Sunday.

An early start, puck drop for the game will commence at 4 p.m. ET.

"A four o'clock start is an interesting game," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said following Saturday's overtime loss to Chicago. "And, hey, be ready against a dangerous team. Calgary's got a lot of ability. They've got some talent. Everybody needs points in the worst way right now."

Earning one out of a possible two points against the Blackhawks, Mike Matheson scored on a 2-on-1 break with 1:28 remaining in regulation to tie the game 2-2 and force overtime. But, after a scoreless extra frame, Chicago scored a pair of goals in the shootout to hand Florida a 3-2 loss.

That being said, the Panthers should have some momentum on their side heading into their tilt with the Flames after a strong finish last night. After Drake Caggiula gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead at 6:21 of the second period, the Panthers went on to outshoot Chicago by a margin of 33-6.

In the third period alone, Florida owned a staggering 17-2 advantage in shots on goal.

"We have to make sure we come excited to play tomorrow," Matheson said. "Like I said, we played really well in the second and third periods. We need to carry that over [into tonight]."

After making 27 saves against the Blackhawks, Sergei Bobrovsky could potentially get the nod in net again tonight. The 31-year-old goaltender has been settling into a nice groove as of late, going 3-2-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .921 save percentage over his last six starts.

No stranger to starting both halves of a back-to-back set, Bobrovsky actually accomplished that feat twice in February. But, if the veteran doesn't end up starting, look for Sam Montembeault to be between the pipes. In 13 appearances this season, the 23-year-old rookie has gone 5-4-1.

"We're going to need him every game here going forward," Quenneville said of Bobrovsky.

Heading into tonight's matchup, no Panthers skater is carrying a hotter stick than Mike Hoffman, who has 10 points (six goals, four assists) during his active seven-game point streak, including lighting the lamp in each of the past five contests to push his team-leading goal total up to 27.

In 12 career games against Calgary, the 30-year-old winger has four goals and five assists.

"I'm trying to do what I can to help this team win and collect points," said Hoffman, who ranks third on the team in scoring with 56 points. "Any time you can get on the board is a bonus."

Despite going 3-3-1 over their last seven games, the Panthers (33-25-7) are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. Entering today's slate of games, they currently sit just three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

"A lot to sort out, a lot of hockey left," Quenneville said. "We've got to help ourselves."

Like Florida, the Flames will also be playing on short rest after suffering a 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday. Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm each scored for Calgary against the Lightning, while goaltender David Rittich finished with 30 saves in net.

Matthew Tkachuk ranks first on the Flames in scoring with 56 points (21 goals, 35 assists), while Johnny Gaudreau is second with 54 (16 goals, 38 assists). Lindholm, meanwhile, paces the club in goals (28), including finding the back of the net six times over his last nine outings.

If Rittich rests tonight, look for Cam Talbot to man the crease against the Panthers. Last taking the ice on Feb. 21, the 32-year-old backup is 9-10-1 with a .914 save percentage this season.

At 33-26-7, Calgary currently owns the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.

"Overall, we didn't play 60 good minutes to win a game against one of the best in the league," Lindholm told reporters after the loss at Tampa Bay, which snapped the team's point streak at three. "We had some moments, a couple of minutes here and there, but it wasn't good enough."

In their previous meeting this season, Florida lost 6-5 in a shootout at Calgary on Oct. 24.

"We're looking ahead to March, it's do-or-die," Matheson said. "A lot of people have written us off already, but that just adds fuel to our fire."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida and ranks tied for ninth in the league with 77 points (22 goals, 55 assists). He's also tied for fourth in the league in points on the power play with 29. Over his last nine games, the 26-year-old winger has registered three goals and six assists.

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on the Panthers in scoring with 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) -- his third straight seasons with at least 60 points. With two more goals, the 24-year-old center will move into a tie with Scott Mellanby for the second-most goals in team history (157).

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks second on Florida in goals (25) and fourth in points (46).

-- Keith Yandle ranks first among Panthers defensemen with 45 points (five goals, 40 assists), marking the seventh straight season he's hit the 40-point plateau. The NHL's active "Iron Man," the 33-year-old is expected to suit up in his 863rd consecutive regular-season game tonight.

-- Noel Acciari ranks tied for fourth on Florida with a career-high 20 goals. The 28-year-old also leads the team in hits (112) and sits first among the all of the league's forwards in blocks (94).

-- Aaron Ekblad ranks second among Panthers defensemen in scoring with 39 points, including a career-high 34 assists. With just one more point, he'll set a new career-high. Also leading the team in ice time per game (22:56), the 24-year-old has posted 18 points at home this season.

PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Erik Haula - Noel Acciari

Frank Vatrano - Lucas Wallmark - Mark Pysyk

Colton Sceviour - Dominic Toninato - Brett Connolly

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Mike Matheson

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratches: Aleksi Saarela, Josh Brown, Dryden Hunt (lower-body)

Injured Reserve: Chris Driedger (lower-body), Brian Boyle (upper-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Feb. 26: G Chris Driedger was assigned to AHL Springfield on a conditioning loan.

- Feb. 24: D Emil Djuse was acquired from Dallas in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

- Feb. 24: F Erik Haula, F Lucas Wallmark, F Eetu Luostarinen and D Chase Priskie were acquired from Carolina in exchange for F Vincent Trocheck.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle

- Kids Day 

- Broward Health Takeover Night (1st 10,000 Fans to Arrive Receive a Co-Branded Rally Towel)

- Territory Memberships are On Sale Now! 

- Players favorite things baskets available for bid and raffle at the Panthers Foundation table outside Club Lexus

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Sunday, March 1, 4:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); SiriusXM 91 (NHL Network Radio) / Streaming 932

Tickets: HERE

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