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Montembeault Gets the Nod as Panthers Road Trip Rolls into Vegas

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/22/20 Morning Skate

2/22/20 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Riley Stillman.

  • 01:10 •

Sam Montembeault will get the nod in net for the Florida Panthers as they continue their trek out West with a critical encounter against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.

Making his first start since stopping 25 of 27 shots in a 4-1 loss to Edmonton at BB&T Center on Feb. 15, Montembeault's return in Vegas comes after Sergei Bobrovsky backstopped Florida to a 2-1-0 record while starting three games in four nights to kick off the team's five-game road trip.

In 12 appearances this season, Montembeault, 23, owns a 5-3-1 record.

"We want to make sure he's fresh," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Bobrovsky.

With their rookie netminder between the pipes, the Panthers will look to bounce back from a 5-4 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday. In that defeat, they struggled to generate any momentum as a slew of uncharacteristic penalties led to the Kings earning five power plays throughout the night.

And although Los Angeles only went 1-for-5 with the extra attacker on the ice, Ben Hutton's game-winning goal near the midway point of the third period might as well have counted toward that total as it came just seven seconds after the team's fifth and final power play had expired.

Prior to that loss, Florida had opened up its trip with wins at San Jose and Anaheim.

"I think we've got to be better in a lot of areas," Quenneville said. "I thought our discipline was not representative of how we've been most nights this year. We gave up five power plays, and we probably could've avoided almost all of them. It started there.

"[The Kings] had a lot more energy than we did in that game. I thought we were careless in some areas and I thought they got their goals rather easily. It was a disappointing game because we had really good momentum on this trip, and now we have to recapture it."

Jonathan Huberdeau registered one of his best offensive games of the season against the Kings, matching a career-high with four points (one goal, three assists). His team-leading 21st multi-point performance, he ranks tied for seventh in the league with 76 points (22 goals, 54 assists).

In the only previous meeting between Florida and Vegas this season, Huberdeau put up a pair of assists during a 7-2 loss at BB&T Center on Feb. 6. Entering tonight's rematch, the 26-year-old winger is riding a five-game point streak in which he's notched three goals and five assists.

"We need to play our game with every line going right off the start," Huberdeau said of tonight's tilt with the Golden Knights. "We know it's a tough building to play in. We know what happened at home, too, against them. I think we've got to remember that and be hungrier than them."

After recalling Aleksi Saarela from AHL Springfield earlier in the week, the Panthers also called up his former linemate Dryden Hunt on Thursday. Expected to be in the lineup tonight in Vegas, the 24-year-old forward had nine goals and 10 assists in the last 16 contests prior to his recall.

A recent "Player of the Week" in the AHL, Hunt has played in 62 career games with Florida.

With Hunt on board, the team hopes to gain some ground in a jam-packed playoff race. With 21 games left, the Panthers (32-23-6) are breathing down the neck of the Toronto Maple Leafs (32-22-8), who they trail by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand.

"The standings are really close right now -- we know that," Huberdeau said of the push for the postseason. "We're out of the playoffs right now, so every point is important. This trip is really huge for us. We've got two out of three [wins], so we need to keep going and get the next one."

Standing in the way of the Panthers and another big two points is a Vegas team has won each of its last four games on home ice, including a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. Snapping the Lightning's winning streak at 11 games, new Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez led the charge in the victory, finishing with a goal and an assist in his debut to earn first-star honors.

At 32-22-8, Vegas currently occupies first place in the Pacific Division.

"It's obvious I was pretty emotional at the beginning there, feeding off the fans," said Martinez, who was traded from Los Angles on Wednesday. "I had to tell myself to settle down a little bit."

Mark Stone, who tied a career-high with five points (two goals, three assists) in a win at Florida earlier this month, leads the Golden Knights in scoring with 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists), while Max Pacioretty ranks just behind him in second with 58, including a team-high 28 goals.

In net, the Golden Knights are expected to roll with Marc-Andre Fleury. Over his last three starts, the 35-year-old veteran has gone 3-0-0 with a .932 save percentage and one shutout.

"It's getting later in the year and points are getting harder and harder to come by," Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman said. "With the way our conference and division is, everything's so tight. Every game matters. Every two points are important. We've just got to focus on tonight."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on the Panthers in scoring with 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists). With a pair of goals during Thursday's loss in Los Angeles, the 24-year-old center hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth straight season. Over his last five games, he's scored for goals.

-- Mike Hoffman ranks second on the Panthers in goals (23) and power-play goals (9), third in points (49) and first in shots on goal (177). Entering tonight's matchup on a three-game point streak, the 30-year-old has posted two goals and one assist in that span.

-- Evgenii Dadonov leads Florida in goals (24), goals on the road (15) and power-play goals (10). Of his 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists), 25 (15 goals, 10 assists) have come on the road.

-- Keith Yandle ranks first among Panthers defensemen with 42 points (five goals, 37 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 859th consecutive regular-season game tonight.

-- Noel Acciari ranks fourth on Florida with a career-high 19 goals. In addition to his offensive numbers, the 28-year-old forward also ranks first among the league's forwards in blocks (90).

-- Aaron Ekblad ranks second among Panthers defensemen in scoring with 37 points, including a career-high 32 assists. On a five-game point streak, the 24-year-old blueliner has racked up seven assists in that span. A workhorse, he also leads the club in time on ice per game (22:56).

-- Vincent Trocheck has recorded seven points (three goals, four assist) over his last nine games. The 26-year-old center ranks first on Florida in takeaways (47) and third in hits (82).

-- MacKenzie Weegar has produced three points (one goal, two assists) in his past five games.

-- The Panthers own a 9-4-1 record on the road since the start of the new year.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Noel Acciari

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Mark Pysyk

Frank Vatrano - Colton Sceviour - Brett Connolly

Dryden Hunt - Aleksi Saarela - Evgenii Dadonov

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sam Montembeault

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: Dominic Toninato, Mike Matheson (illness)

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

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Feb. 20: F Dryden Hunt was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Feb. 19: F Mason Marchment was acquired from Toronto in exchange for F Denis Malgin.

- Feb. 18: F Aleksi Saarela was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Feb. 17: F Jayce Hawryluk was claimed on waivers by Ottawa.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Saturday, Feb. 22, 10:00 p.m. ET

Where: T-Mobile Arena - Las Vegas, NV

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys) 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Streaming 932

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

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