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NOTEBOOK: Acciari at Practice; Bobrovsky Standing Tall

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Noel Acciari takes a big step in his rehab, Sergei Bobrovsky stands on his head, and more!

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Out of action since suffering an upper-body injury during a preseason win over the Lightning in early October, forward Noel Acciari was back on the ice and a full participant during Thursday's practice at the Panthers IceDen.

"It was great to see him on the ice," interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. "I think he's ahead of schedule. We just wanted to integrate him into the group with a little battle and a little movement."

With the Panthers very deep at forward at the moment, Acciari spent most of practice playing defense. "I don't think he'd ever played defense," Brunette chuckled. "We wanted to get him moving."

Although he was a bit of a fish out of water on the blue line, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said that he was impressed with how quickly Acciari acclimated to his new position during this morning's session.

"He was 10 out of 10," Weegar said of Acciari's defense. "He steps up in the middle. He holds guys accountable. He's got a great stick. Maybe he's got a job on the back end helping the boys out."

While Acciari is expected to join the Panthers on their upcoming five-game road trip -- which is slated to begin at Calgary on Jan. 18 -- he isn't expected to return to the lineup for at least a couple more weeks.

"Hopefully at some point in the next month or so he might be ready to go," Brunette said.

Lacing up his skates in 41 games last season, Acciari, who turned 30 in December, notched 11 points (four goals, seven assists), while also pacing all Panthers forwards in hits (91) and blocked shots (63).

"He's such a big part to our team," Weegar said. "It was all smiles when we saw him out there."

BOB ON A ROLL

It's sometimes easy to forget about the goalie when a team is scoring almost four goals per game.

But for the Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky is certainly deserving of a shoutout for his play this season.

After the veteran goaltender turned aside 42 of 44 shots in a 5-2 win over the Canucks on Tuesday, now seemed as good a time as ever to take a step back and soak in some of his exceptional statistics thus far.

"He was as sharp as I've seen him in that last game there," Brunette said. "He was outstanding. He made some huge saves in crucial moments. He's been great all year for us. It's nice to see him have some fun."

In 25 appearances this season, Bobrovsky has posted an outstanding 17-3-3 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Starting six of seven games for the Panthers since coming out of the pause, he's gone 5-0-1 with a .923 save percentage while making at least 30 saves in four outings.

Per MoneyPuck.com, he currently ranks tied for fifth in the NHL with 15.8 goals saved above expected.

"He's been great all year long," Weegar said. "I think he's really found his game this year. I don't think he's changed anything up. He's just got a lot of confidence right now and he's got a lot of trust in the guys in front of him."

STARS COME OUT

After losing in a shootout last week in Dallas, the Panthers will look to push their point streak to eight games when they kick off a back-to-back with a rematch against the Stars at FLA Live Arena on Friday.

Sitting atop the Atlantic Division with a record of 24-7-5, Florida has gone 19-3-3 at home.

"We're going to have to bring our absolute best against that team," Weegar said.

For tickets, visit FloridaPanthers.com/Tickets.

NOTES

- Carter Verhaeghe took a maintenance day, but is expected to play on Friday.

- Patric Hornqvist returned to practice after missing the last two games while in COVID protocols.

- Jonas Johansson entered into COVID protocols on Thursday.

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