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Panthers set to raise Atlantic Division title banner

Florida to take ice for opener without Jonathan Huberdeau; Taylor Hall makes Devils debut

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

DEVILS (0-0-0) at PANTHERS (0-0-0)

7:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-F, NHL.TV

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will raise their 2015-16 Atlantic Division Champions banner to the rafters of BB&T Center before their season opener against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

"I don't know what the odds would have been, but I'm sure no one was [picking] us last year to drop that banner down," said center Derek MacKenzie, who was named Florida captain on Sunday. "We proved a lot of people wrong. We opened a lot of eyes. The banner is going to drop and it's going to feel great, and then reality is going to set in. Every other team that comes in here is going to see that hanging there and they're going to be gunning for us. The days of teams coming in here and taking us lightly are gone. We're going to have to be ready."

The Panthers have nine new players on their opening night roster, including forward Jonathan Marchessault, who will skate on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr in place of Jonathan Huberdeau, who is expected to miss 3-4 months with an Achilles injury.

Marchessault signed a two-year contract with the Panthers on July 1 after playing the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Huberdeau was injured in the first period of Florida's preseason finale against the Devils last Saturday. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Huberdeau had surgery on his Achilles on Wednesday, but the timetable for his return remains the same.

Florida has two players each making his NHL debut; center Denis Malgin, 19, and 27-year-old right wing Shane Harper.

Left wing Taylor Hall, the Devils' biggest offseason acquisition, will be among nine players making their debuts with New Jersey. Hall was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29, and led the Oilers in scoring three of the past four seasons.

Another veteran newcomer playing his first game with the Devils will be forward PA Parenteau, claimed off waivers from the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"He's a seasoned, veteran player," Devils coach John Hynes said earlier this week. "He's been in training camp, he's played games. It just hasn't been with us. As long as he brings his work habits and his compete level is high, he's a smart enough player and an experienced enough player where some of the systematic things, we'll figure out pretty quick."

Parenteau is expected to skate on a line with Jacob Josefson and Pavel Zacha.

Veteran defenseman Kyle Quincey will make his Devils debut after being activated from the injured list. Quincey, who signed a one-year contract Sept. 28, had been sidelined with a lower-body injury.

The group of newcomers also includes forward Blake Speers, 19, and defenseman Yohann Auvitu, 27, who played the past six seasons in Finland.

The Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 7-1 in their season opener last season when Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen scored in the game's first 6:46 for a 4-0 lead and set a modern-day NHL record for the fastest four goals to start a season.


Devils projected lineup

Taylor Hall -- Adam Henrique -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Michael Cammalleri -- Travis Zajac -- Kyle Palmieri

Jacob Josefson -- Pavel Zacha -- PA Parenteau

Miles Wood -- Vernon Fiddler -- Blake Speers

Andy Greene -- Damon Severson

John Moore -- Ben Lovejoy

Yohann Auvitu -- Kyle Quincey

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Reid Boucher, Beau Bennett, Steven Santini

Injured: Luke Gazdic (broken foot), Jon Merrill (broken finger), Sergey Kalinin (illness)


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Jared McCann -- Denis Malgin -- Colton Sceviour

Greg McKegg -- Derek MacKenzie -- Shane Harper

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson -- Jason Demers

Mark Pysyk -- Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

James Reimer

Scratched: Shawn Thornton, Steven Kampfer

Injured: Jonathan Huberdeau (ankle), Nick Bjugstad (hand)


Status report

Zajac will play in his 700th NHL game. … Jagr will play in his 1,630th career game, moving him five behind Scott Stevens for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list.


Who's hot

Auvitu led New Jersey in preseason scoring with six points, all assists. … Trocheck had a goal and three assists in Florida's 7-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in its season opener in 2015-16. … Luongo will tie Jacques Plante for sixth place on the NHL's all-time list with a victory. Luongo has 436 career wins.

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