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NOTEBOOK: Panthers Are Playing with Pace

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

9/25/19 Practice

9/25/19 Practice

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Denis Malgin and defenseman Mike Matheson

  • 02:05 •

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are playing with pace right now.

When training camp opened earlier this month, that was one of the main messages that new head coach Joel Quenneville wanted to instill in his players. Whether it's working in the gym, running through practice drills or playing in a game, a maximum effort is expected at all times.

With one week left in the preseason, players are clearly responding to that approach.

"We have two games left before the season starts and everybody's working hard," Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov said after Wednesday's practice. "We've had good practices. I think everyone is adjusting to the new system that coach has given us. We're all working hard."

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov believes the team's newfound pace is recipe for success.

"A good pace and good work ethic, that's always a good combination," he said.

That up-tempo attitude was on display during Florida's 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at BB&T Center. Entering the first intermission tied 1-1, the Panthers really took it to their cross-state rival over the final two periods, scoring five goals to run away with the game.

Florida's top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Barkov and Dadonov continued their red-hot start to the preseason against the Lightning, combing for three goals and four assists in the win. The trio -- which combined for 258 points last season - now has 13 points in two preseason games.

"When you score goals and make plays and get good chances in the offensive zone, it builds your confidence," said Barkov, who scored twice against Tampa Bay. "I can't say we played really well as a line today. We had a couple goals, but we can be better. That tells us a lot, though. We don't have to be at our best to score goals. I think the whole team is the same way."

When asked to describe this "pace," Quenneville said look no further than today's practice.

Taking the ice at 11 a.m., the Panthers didn't hold back at all despite having gone toe-to-toe with Tampa Bay the night before. Watching from the sidelines, I noticed that legs never had much of a chance to stop moving, as players went through each drill quickly and with purpose.

Under Quenneville, players are expected to act fast, but think even faster.

"We want to play faster," Quenneville said. "I know today's practice was kind of the speed that we're looking for. It's a consistency thing. Everyone's getting it, from when they jump on the ice until they get on the bench. I think if we have that across the board, we're going to be able to play in their end more and we're going to be able to push the pace that we like to talk about."

The Panthers will host the Lightning once again on Thursday night in Sunrise - their final home game of the preseason - before wrapping up the entire preseason on Saturday in Tampa Bay.

MALGIN IT TO WIN IT

Denis Malgin made the most out of a good opportunity on Tuesday night.

Lining up alongside Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman on the second line, the 22-year-old forward scored his first goal of the preseason, following his own rebound and beating reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy to put the Panthers up 6-3 early in the third period.

"It's always nice to score," said Malgin, who signed a one-year extension this summer. "I think everybody's excited to get the season going. I can't wait to start the season. I'm really excited. Last night was a good game for us. We're going to keep going and do the little things right."

Preparing for his fourth season with the Panthers, Malgin, a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, produced a total of seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 50 games in 2018-19.

Like his other teammates, Malgin is also enjoying the pace of Quenneville's practices.

"We have really tough practices," he said. "It's a lot of skating and lots of pace. I really like it."

HUBERDEAU TAKES THE DAY

Huberdeau missed today's practice due to a maintenance day, according to Quenneville.

The 26-year-old looked very sharp against the Lightning, recording a goal and an assist to increase his point total to four (two goals, two assists) over two preseason games thus far.

"We've just got keep going, keep climbing," Huberdeau said after the win. "We've got a new system. We really like it. We've just got to work hard every night and we should be good."

Fresh off the best season of his career, Huberdeau set career-highs in goals (30) and points (92) in 2018-19. He also managed to set a new franchise single-season record with 62 assists.

SERGEI TO START

After making his preseason debut on Tuesday, Quenneville said he expects goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to make the start and play the entire game in Thursday's rematch with Tampa Bay.

In his debut, Bobrovsky, 31, stopped 12 of 14 shots over 31:08 of ice time.

"It was good for him to get in the net," Quenneville said after the game. "He made a spectacular save. I think he's going to keep getting better as we go along here and getting more comfortable with the guys in front of him. I think that learning curve is going to be good for the guys in front of him as well."

Entering his first season with Florida after joining the club on a seven-year deal during free agency, Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, went 37-24-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and a league-leading nine shutouts with Columbus in 2018-19.

BROUWER RELEASED FROM PTO

Florida announced this morning that Troy Brouwer was released from his professional tryout.

Brouwer, 34, played in 75 games with the Panthers last season, posting 12 goals and 21 points.

"In Brouw's situation, too many young kids and a lot of guys in the same spot that he was fighting for," Quenneville said of the decision.

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