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NOTEBOOK: Big Night on the Penalty Kill for Panthers, Stillman

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/19/20 Practice

1/19/20 Practice

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

  • 01:20 •

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, the Panthers have a big night on the penalty kill in Detroit, rookie defenseman Riley Stillman is earning the trust of the team's coaches, and more!

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Florida Panthers penalty kill was put to the test in the Motor City.

In the end, it passed with flying colors.

Behind a heaping of important hits, blocks and saves, the Panthers held strong in a matchup that featured a parade to the sin bin for both teams, stifling all seven power plays they faced during a hard-fought 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday night.

Prior to that tilt, the most times Florida had been sent to the penalty kill this season was four.

"I thought we disrupted their power play," said Panthers coach Joel Quenneville following Sunday's practice in Minnesota. "With Bob [goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky] in net, we did a good job with the shooting lanes, passing lanes and also had some good clears.

"I thought there was consistency from start to finish on the PK. It's three more than we've seen in any game all year, and when you're short for as much time as we were, that was a good night for the penalty killers. Everybody should be excited about what happened."

Like everything in hockey, Florida's big night on the kill was the result of a strong team effort.

Noel Acciari (7:09) and Colton Sceviour (6:45) led the team's forwards in shorthanded minutes, while Anton Stralman and rookie Riley Stillman paced the defensemen with 7:34 each. In net, Bobrovsky stopped all 11 shots he faced, while the players in front of him blocked six shots.

Overall, eight Panthers recorded at least four shorthanded minutes in the win.

"There were some big blocks from guys like Straly [Stralman], Cookie [Acciari] and Sceves [Sceviour], which changes the game," Stillman said. "When you're in the right spot and get those blocks at the right time, and with Bob [Bobrovsky] playing great, it makes a difference in the game If your penalty kill is rolling, it can give you momentum going back onto 5-on-5."

Taking a look at the advanced numbers, the Panthers not only kept the Red Wings power play off the scoresheet, they didn't give them very much to work with at all. Spending 12:53 with the extra skater on the ice, Detroit had only six scoring chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Forced to the outside, the Red Wings power play also had only two high-danger shot attempts.

"There was some unpredictability," Quenneville said. "I thought the PK was outstanding."

Despite ranking 20th in the league on the penalty kill (79.1 percent) at the moment, the Panthers have been making strides in that area as of late. Boosted by their strong performance in Detroit, they've now gone a stellar 15-for-17 (88.2 percent) on the kill over their last four games played.

STILLMAN GAINING RESPONSIBILITY

As evidenced by his minutes last night, Stillman is clearly starting to take on more responsibility.

Thanks in large part to the 7:34 he spent holding down the fort on the penalty kill, the 21-year-old rookie saw the second-most ice time of his young career in the win (21:54). And when the game was on the line, he was called into action for a whopping 9:13 in the third period alone.

"The PK is a big part of my game here," said Stillman, who was recalled from AHL Springfield on Dec. 27. "I need to keep that going in the right direction and help the team with that. It gives confidence to the coaching staff in playing me in those roles. And, obviously last night with as many kills as we did, it allowed that time to increase. It's important to me. I take huge pride in it."

In 14 games this season, Stillman, who has been playing alongside Stralman, a 13-year NHL veteran, both at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill, has tallied four assists, 18 hits and 28 blocks.

Against the Red Wings, he matched a season-high with five blocked shots.

"He does a lot of good things for us," Quenneville said. "His reads are very mature at this stage of his career. He anticipates well on reads. He's quick in the puck areas and, physically, he's got some unpredictability there, which is a good asset to have. With Straly [Stralman] helping him out positionally and communicating with him, I think they're forming a nice pair."

Looking ahead, Stillman said he's only focused on doing what he can to help the Panthers get into the playoffs - a promised land they inched a little bit closer to with their most-recent win.

Improving to 26-16-5 after downing Detroit, Florida leapt over Toronto to claim third place in the Atlantic Division and move back into a playoff spot. With only two games left until they break for All-Star Weekend and the Bye Week, the goal now is to pad their cushion in the standings a bit.

With wins in 11 of their last 15 games, the Panthers will battle the Wild in Minnesota on Monday.

"You never want to be chasing in anything," Stillman said. "If you're chasing, you're in the wrong spot. Now that we're in there, we've got two games left before the break, and we want to make sure that we keep rolling and can solidify that spot and then take advantage of it afterwards."

WELCOME BACK, BRUNETTE

It'll be somewhat of a homecoming for Panthers assistant coach Andrew Brunette when the team takes the ice for their big matchup against the Wild on Monday at Xcel Energy Center.

Before he joined Quenneville's staff this summer, he'd spent the previous seven seasons with Minnesota serving in numerous different capacities, including Director of Player Personnel, Assistant General Manager, Assistant Coach and Special Assistant to the General Manager.

A longtime NHL forward, Brunette also suited up in 489 games for the Wild, recording 321 points (119 goals, 202 assists) over parts of six seasons (2001-04, 2008-11).

"Bruno [Brunette] was in a lot of different capacities here over the course of his career," Quenneville said. "He got to explore and experience a lot of different places in the hockey world. We remember him more when he was around the ice and around the net being disruptive in that area and scoring those types of goals that he was very good at."

TONINATO NOT FEELING WELL

As for Dominic Toninato's return to the North Star State, that's a bit up in the air right now.

The Panthers forward and Duluth, Minnesota native is currently dealing with an illness that caused him to miss the game in Detroit and Sunday's practice. In the midst of his first season with Florida, the 25-year-old forward has racked up four goals and five assists in 28 games.

From 2013-17, Toninato starred for four seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

"He was sick," Quenneville said. "He was supposed to play [against the Red Wings], and then right before the game he came down with the flu. We'll see how he's feeling tomorrow."

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