CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Evgenii Dadonov is on fire.
With yet another two-point performance in Thursday's win over the Boston Bruins, the top-line forward now ranks second on the Florida Panthers in multi-point games (19) and has recorded at least two points in nine of his last 16 games overall.
"He's a guy that creates offense every night," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "Whether it was on our power play or at 5-on-5, he made some high-end plays last night to set up both goals. He's a shooter, but he's just as good at passing the puck and distributing. He makes people around him better."
In his first season back in the NHL after spending five seasons in the KHL, the Russian import's speed has played very well with Florida's up-tempo attack. The 29-year-old ranks fourth on the club in both goals (22) and points (54), while also scoring a team-high five game-winning goals.
When asked about Dadonov's skillset, Boughner said it isn't so much his speed that makes him so dangerous, but rather his ability to know when to use it. Like a pitcher in baseball, he mixes in some changeups with his fastballs, keeping opposing defenseman on their toes as he turns the jets on and off throughout a game.
"He's smart about it," Boughner said. "He can turn it on and off. He has a change of gears. He's not like some guys you see going full speed the whole time they're out there. I think that throws a lot of defensemen off."
Still, things weren't always this easy for Dadonov.
After scoring five goals in a five-game span in October, his production tailed off in November, as he notched just one goal and seven points over a 20-game span. From mid-November until mid-January, he endured both a 19-game goalless drought and a shoulder injury that caused him to miss eight games.
"A season is long," Dadonov said. "It's always like this. It goes up and down."
Down but not out, Dadonov has come back with a vengeance since the all-star break, ranking 12th in the NHL in points (25) and seventh in goals (12) since the league's unofficial mid-season marker, helping catapult the Panthers back into the playoff picture down the home stretch.
Florida is 13-3-1 when Dadonov records a goal and 21-8-3 when he registers a point.
"Ever since he got here, he's helped the team out in a tremendous way," said Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad. "You need a guy like that. He's a guy that can spark things and make plays all over the ice. He's pretty incredible."
Against Boston, it was a long cross-ice, tape-to-tape pass from Dadonov that set up Bjugstad's 16th goal of the season.
Video: BOS@FLA: Bjugstad buries Dadonov's cross-ice pass
"For him to actually get it there with the saucer pass and put it right on my tape was pretty good," Bjugstad said. "He's a good guy to play with and a good guy off the ice, too."
With 14 games remaining in the season, Dadonov needs just six more points to give the Panthers four 60-point scorers for the first time in franchise history, joining teammates Aleksander Barkov (70), Vincent Trocheck (65) and Jonathan Huberdeau (63).
"I don't think about points," Dadonov said. "I just care about our team and wins."
PETROVIC ON THE MEND
After missing Thursday's tilt against Boston, defenseman Alex Petrovic will be a game-time decision when the Panthers host Edmonton at BB&T Center on Saturday, Boughner said.
"We'll see how he feels after he gets another night's rest," Boughner said.
Petrovic suffered a lower-body injury in the second period of Monday's loss to Ottawa. He was a full participant during Friday's practice and the injury is considered day to day. If Petrovic can't go, Ian McCoshen will take his place on the third pairing with MacKenzie Weegar.
In 56 games, Petrovic has posted one goal, 10 assists and a team-leading 120 hits.
FRIDAY'S PRACTICE LINES
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Frank Vatrano
Jamie McGinn - Jared McCann- Denis Malgin
Micheal Haley - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar - Alex Petrovic / Ian McCoshen