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Huberdeau, Panthers Carry Streaks into Matchup in Nashville

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

The Florida Panthers will look to extend their point streak to five games when they close out a back-to-back against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.

"You've got to defend from start to finish," Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said of the matchup. "A loud building and a fun building to play in, but we've got to play the right way."

On Friday night in Sunrise, the Panthers got the start they wanted, but not the finish.

Leading 3-1 after the opening frame, Florida was then outscored 3-1 by Colorado in the second period. With the game eventually going to overtime, Nathan MacKinnon lit the lamp 3:03 into the extra frame to send Colorado to a 5-4 win and knock the Panthers down to 2-2-3 on the season.

Afterwards, Quenneville said the team is still looking for a "complete game."

"It was a high-chance game," he said. "Both teams had their time when they had possession of it. I thought in the second period we were very sloppy to begin. We weren't controlling the game like we did in the first. I thought we did everything that we wanted to do at the start of the game."

Jonathan Huberdeau has opened the scoring for Florida each of its last two games and had his first two-goal performance of the season against the Avalanche. The 26-year-old winger enters tonight's matchup riding a six-game point streak, with three goals and five assists in that span.

Huberdeau's currently tied with Mike Hoffman for the team-scoring lead with eight points.

"I think it's going to be a hard game, going into their building," said Huberdeau, who has five goals and five assists in 11 career games against the Predators. "It's a huge game for us."

With Sergei Bobrovsky starting the first half of the back-to-back against the Avalanche, there's a good chance the Panthers turn to backup goaltender Sam Montembeault in Nashville. The 22-year-old rookie backup has been sharp through two appearances this season, owning a 0-0-1 record with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage over roughly six periods.

Making his first start of the season last weekend on Long Island, Montembeault, a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, turned away 26 of 28 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Islanders.

"He looked great," Quenneville said of Montembeault after that start. "He handles the puck well. He has a lot of confidence in net. He sees plays around the net, anticipates well. He was good."

The Predators (4-3-0) will be playing at home for the first time in over a week after wrapping up a three-game road trip with a 5-2 loss in Arizona on Thursday. Against the Coyotes, Dante Fabbro and Nick Bonino each scored for Nashville, while backup Juuse Saros made 27 saves.

"If it weren't for Juuse, they would have scored 14 goals," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after the game.

Nashville currently boasts the league's best offense, scoring an average of 4.29 goals per game. Matt Duchene and Ryan Ellis are tied for the team-scoring lead with nine points each, while Filip Forsberg ranks third in scoring with eight points and leads the team with five goals.

Forsberg (lower-body) did not suit up in Arizona and is considered day-to-day.

With Saros starting against the Coyotes, it's likely that the Predators turn to starter Pekka Rinne against the Panthers. The 36-year-old veteran is off to a 4-0-0 start to his season behind a 2.76 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He's 5-4-0 in his career against the Florida.

After coming up just short of earning an extra point in recent games, the Panthers appear poised to hit their stride at any moment. They currently lead the league in shots on goal per game (39) and rank third in terms of possession at 5-on-5 with 55.37 percent shot share.

Florida's penalty kill is also tied for fifth in the league with an 88.9 percent success rate.

"I think those guys have done a great job all year as far as awareness of what [opposing teams] are up to and how to disrupt their entries, whether they're seam passes, shots from the flanks or the tops," Quenneville said of the team's penalty kill, which has gone a perfect 11-for-11 over the past four contests. "It's been pretty good so far. That's always a work in progress."

NOTES

-- Mike Hoffman leads the Panthers in goals (5) and is tied for the lead in points (8). The 29-year-old winger posted the best season of his career in 2018-19, setting new highs in goals (36), power-play goals (17) and points (70).

-- Brett Connolly has tallied six points in seven games to start the season, including three goals over his last two. Joining the Panthers on a four-year deal this summer, the 27-year-old winger reached career-bests in goals (22), assists (24) and points (46) in 2018-19 with Washington.

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers and ranks seventh in the league in average ice time per game (25:21). The 23-year-old lead also leads Florida's defenseman in assists (5). In 2018-19, he tallied 13 goals and 24 assists while leading the club with a career-high 1,938:49 of ice time.

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks second on the Panthers in goals (4), third in points (7) and first in shots (25). The 30-year-old winger has registered 28 goals in each of the last two seasons.

-- Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers with six assists.

-- Vincent Trocheck has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in six games. The 26-year-old center also leads Florida and ranks tied for ninth in the league with nine takeaways.

-- Dryden Hunt leads the Panthers in hits (20); Mike Matheson leads the club in blocks (11).

-- Florida split its two-game series with Nashville in 2018-19, going 1-1-0.

PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Denis Malgin

Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sam Montembeault

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: Jayce Hawryluk, Mark Pysyk

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Sept. 29: F Anthony Greco, F Owen Tippett, F Dominic Toninato and D Riley Stillman were loaned to AHL Springfield.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Saturday, Oct. 19, 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Watch Party: The Balcony Las Olas 

Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); WIRK 103.1 (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

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