SUNRISE, Fla. - After missing just over two weeks with a lower-body injury, forward Denis Malgin will make his return to the Florida Panthers lineup when the team hosts the Ottawa Senators on Monday night at BB&T Center.
"I'm very excited and very happy to finally be back," Malgin said after Monday's morning skate. "It was a long two weeks, but it wasn't bad. I was working hard and finally I can help the team."
In his first game since Feb. 24, Malgin will be deployed on Florida's second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck. In 13 games on that line before the injury, the 21-year-old recorded five goals and four assists - tied for the third-most goals on the team during that span.
"He's a real good player," said Huberdeau, who had nine points (2-7-9) during that 13-game stretch with Malgin. "I think we've been playing with a lot of wingers, me and Trocheck, it's kind of going around. But it'll be nice to find some chemistry. I think he's a big part of our team and a good player. We missed him when he was hurt, but now he's back and we need to keep going."
With Malgin back in the lineup, Frank Vatrano, who scored in his Panthers debut on Saturday, will slide down to the third line with Jamie McGinn and Jared McCann. After missing more than a month with a high-ankle sprain, Vatrano, who was acquired in pre-deadline trade with Boston, skated a career-high 19:05, while seeing time both on the power play and in overtime.
For Panthers coach Bob Boughner, the decision to move Vatrano wasn't an easy one.
"You can make a case for both guys," he said. "They both played really well on that line. I like the fact that Malgy's a right-shot on that line. I think for Vatrano, it doesn't matter if he plays on the third line or second line, I like what I see. I think he's going to really make that third line a better offensive line."
With these new-look lines, the Panthers (34-25-7) will attempt to continue building upon their already franchise-record eight-game winning streak at home. Since the all-star break, Florida has the most wins in the NHL (15) while going 10-1-0 at home, including a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers on Saturday.
"It's an exciting time," Boughner said.
With 16 games remaining in their regular season, the Panthers currently trail Columbus by two points for the second wild card spot and New Jersey by three points for the first wild card spot into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They also have three games in hand on both clubs.
As it has been for weeks, Florida is approaching its matchup with Ottawa as a must-win.
"It's just another game that we need to win," said Trocheck, who leads the team with 26 goals. "We're not focusing on any home win streak record or anything like that. It's just a matter of us getting into the playoffs right now. In order to do that, we're going to need to win a lot of games."
The Senators (23-33-11) roll into Sunrise with just two wins in their last 10 games, including a 2-1 loss against Calgary on Friday. They boast the league's 24th-ranked offense (2.67 goals per game) and 30th-ranked defense (3.37 goals allowed per game). They will also likely be without their top scorer, Mark Stone, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Flames.
Craig Anderson will get the nod for Ottawa in net. The 36-year-old goaltender has allowed more than four goals in three of his last five starts, but owns a 14-7-2 career record against Florida, which is expected to roll with Roberto Luongo. Over his last eight starts, Luongo is 7-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average a .932 save percentage and one shutout.
"The hottest team in the NHL right now," Senators coach Guy Boucher said of the Panthers. "Obviously, since their goalie's back, it makes a huge difference for them. They're 8-1-1 in their last 10. You look at video, they're firing from all cylinders. They've got lots of intensity, lots of drive. They have two 60 pointers on their second line. Not a lot of teams have that. They are who they are."
- Aleksander Barkov enters tonight's game with 14 points (5-9-14) over his last nine games and is just points away from becoming the first Panther since 2007-08 to post 70 points in a season. In 19 games since the all-star break, the 22-year-old center has registered 25 points (10-15-25), which is tied for fifth in the league during that span.
- The NHL's active ironman, Keith Yandle is expected to suit up in his 700th consecutive game tonight. The 31-year-old defenseman needs just four more points to achieve his first 50-point season since 2013-14 and currently leads Florida's blueliners in point (46), assists (40) and power-play points (16), while also leading the club in total ice time (1621:38).
- Evgenii Dadonov, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, has recorded multiple points in six of his last eight games. The Russian winger leads the Panthers in multi-goal games (5) and game-winning goals (5), while also ranking second in multi-point games (18). He has posted 22 points (11-11-22) in 19 games since the all-star break.
- Since Nov. 22, the Panthers rank sixth in the NHL in penalty killing (84 percent). Florida's 10 shorthanded goals this season pace the NHL, with Aleksander Barkov scoring a league-leading five of them.
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin
Jamie McGinn - Jared McCann - Frank Vatrano
Micheal Haley - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar - Alex Petrovic
Scratches: Ian McCoshen, Connor Brickley, Maxim Mamin, Radim Vrbata
- March 10: F Frank Vatrano activated from IR
- Feb. 14: G Roberto Luongo activated from IR
- Feb. 14: G Harri Sateri loaned to Springfield (AHL)
HOW TO WATCH
When: Monday, March 12, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV coverage: FOX Sports Florida (check local listings)
Florida Panthers Radio Network Presented by HARD Lifestyle Beverages: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
Where to stream it: FOX Sports GO and NHL.TV (outside state of Florida)