"Sammy's got to be focused," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "He's got to be good early. It's not the easiest building. It's a good challenge for him. It's a good challenge for all our guys, but we want to play a strong road game, a simple road game in front of Sammy. A much different feel coming in here than playing at home, with last change and everything else."
With Montembeault in net, the Panthers (30-27-12) are coming off two of their best outings of the season, throttling the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings by a combined score of 12-3 on Friday and Sunday, respectively. In those wins, Montembeault turned away 44 of 47 shots.
"We got a lot of run support for him at home there," Boughner said of Montembeault, who's gone 2-0-1 since his recall on Feb. 27. "We scored a lot of goals, and that makes a goalie obviously feel better. I assume tonight's going to be a tight-checking game. They give up, I think, the number one or two least shots on net out of anybody in the NHL."
As Boughner pointed out, San Jose leads the league in fewest shots allowed per game (28.3). This should make for an exciting matchup, something akin to an unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object, as the Panthers rank fifth in the league in shots on goal per game (33.3).
In their only previous meeting this season, Florida's power play paved the way a huge victory over the Sharks, going 3-for-4 with the man advantage in a 6-3 beatdown at home on Jan. 21.
Entering tonight's matchup with the second-ranked power play in the league (27.1 percent), the Panthers boast three players with at least 30 power-play points in a season for the first time in franchise history, including Jonathan Huberdeau (31), Mike Hoffman (31) and Keith Yandle (34).
When asked about the power play's sustained success, Yandle, who is tied for second in the league in power-play points, said that the team has benefited from focusing on the little details, such as "getting shots at he nets, getting good screens… recovering pucks, winning faceoffs."
Yandle said that the team's captain, Aleksander Barkov, has "led the way" in all those areas.
Leading the team in scoring with 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists), Barkov, having already set a new career-high in goals, needs just two more points to surpass the career-high 78 he posted last season. Of his 77 points, a career-best 29 have come with the extra attacker on the ice.
Barkov, who stands 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, is the net-front presence on team's top power-play unit.
"We're in the goalie's eyes," Boughner said, praising his team's ability to screen goalies on the man advantage. "You have to credit Barky on the first unit and [Jamie] McGinn on the second unit right now. They're making sure that the goalie's got to fight around to see the puck. We're getting a lot of success at just collapsing to their net and trying to get numbers to their net."
The Sharks (43-19-8) enter tonight's matchup riding a six-game winning streak, which they just barely kept alive during a 5-4 win at Winnipeg on Tuesday. In that victory, captain Joe Pavelski scored the game-winning goal with 4.3 seconds left in regulation to complete a wild comeback.
Pavelski leads the team with 37 goals this season, while Norris Trophy candidate Brent Burns paces the club with 73 points, which also ranks first among all NHL defensemen this season.
The Sharks, who sit in first place in the Pacific Division, have won a Western Conference-leading 23 games at home.
"It's a tough building if you're not ready to play, so obviously the start's going to be important.," Boughner said. "They produce a lot of offense from going to low to high in the offense zone. We've got to make sure that we're punching out in lanes, we're blocking shots. We definitely have to make sure that we're strong at boxing out and have sticks in front." The Panthers have come away with a win in each of their last two visits to San Jose.
-- Mike Hoffman leads the Panthers with a career-high 31 goals. Of those scores, a team-leading and career-best 14 have come on the power play. The 29-year-old winger has also notched 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) over his last 14 games. With one more point, he will surpass the career-high 61 he posted during the 2016-17 campaign while with Ottawa.
-- Keith Yandle leads all Panthers defensemen in points (54) and assists (45). The 32-year-old also stands tied for second in the league in power-play points (34), while his career-high seven power-play goals are the most among all NHL blueliners.
-- Named the NHL's "First Star of the Week" on Monday, Jonathan Huberdeau ranks second on the Panthers in points (74), including nine goals and 13 assists over his last 13 games. Leading the team with a career-high 52 assists, the 25-year-old winger needs to notch two more helpers to surpass Viktor Kozlov's long-standing franchise record of 53.
-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (23:34), while also pacing the club's defensemen in goals (12). The 23-year-old enters tonight's matchup with two goals and five assists over his last nine games.
-- Frank Vatrano leads the Panthers with 20 even-strength goals and has reached new career-highs in goals (21), assists (14) and points (35) this season. Vatrano, who turned 25 today, also paces the club's forwards in blocked shots (66), while ranking second in hits (106).
-- Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar has tallied six points (two goals, four assists) over his last five games.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Sam Montembeault (2-0-1, 2.32 GAA, .904 SV%) vs. Martin Jones (34-13-5, 2.83 GAA, .900 SV%)
Montembeault will make his third straight start for the Panthers. The 22-year-old is coming off a stellar performance against Detroit on Sunday in which he stopped 19 of 20 shots to pick up his second-career win. With just three NHL starts under his belt, the talented rookie has yet to face the Sharks in his career. In fact, he admitted that he's actually never even been to California.
After yielding the net to backup Aaron Dell on Tuesday in Winnipeg, Jones is expected to return to San Jose's crease against the Panthers. The 29-year-old has earned a win in each of his last five starts, stopping a combined 128 of 137 shots for a .934 save percentage in that span. In his career against Florida, he's gone 2-2-1 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .861 save percentage.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Frank Vatrano - Vincent Trocheck - Mike Hoffman
Dryden Hunt - Riley Sheahan - Troy Brouwer
Jamie McGinn - Henrik Borgstrom - Jayce Hawryluk
Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle - MacKenzie Weegar
Mark Pysyk - Josh Brown
Scratches: Denis Malgin (lower body), Roberto Luongo, Ian McCoshen
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Colton Sceviour (upper body)
- March 8: G Sam Montembeault's emergency conditions of his recall were terminated
- March 1: D Riley Stillman was loaned to Springfield (AHL)
- Feb. 28: G Samuel Montembeault was recalled from Springfield (AHL) on an emergency basis
- Feb. 26: D Riley Stillman was recalled from Springfield (AHL) on an emergency basis
- Feb. 25: F Dryden Hunt was recalled from Springfield (AHL)
HOW TO WATCH
When: Thursday, March 14, 10:30 p.m.
Where: SAP Center - San Jose, CA
TV: Fox Sports Florida (Alternate Channels Below)
DTV HD: 654-1
Dish HD: 9515
Dish Hopper: 412-33
AT&T HD: 1721
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
Watch Party: Thanks to the new "Territory on Tap" program, every road game now offers a chance for a watch party in South Florida! To see which local bars and restaurants will have drink specials and giveaways for tonight's game, please visit the official "Territory on Tap" page!
Also, if you're looking for a fun way to spend your Friday night, the Panthers will be hosting a fun-filled happy hour from 4-8 p.m. tomorrow at Downtown Himmarshee in Fort Lauderdale.
Looking for a way to kill some time before tonight's late-night puck drop? Check out the one-year anniversary episode of Territory Talk, featuring Frank Vatrano.