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NOTEBOOK: Special Teams Work; Big Matchup with Edmonton

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/14/20 Practice

2/14/20 Practice

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forward Jonathan Huberdeau.

  • 01:05 •

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, the Panthers turn their attention to special teams while also looking ahead to an important matchup against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Looking to get their playoff push back on the right track, the Florida Panthers turned their attention to special teams during Friday's practice at the Panthers IceDen.

"I liked the way we were moving the puck around on the power play," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "We worked on special teams today - some PK, but mostly PP. That was what we were doing out there today. That part of our team game can help our 5-on-5 game."

Ranking among the top-five teams in the league on the power play throughout the majority of the season, the Panthers have dipped down a bit to eighth (22.4 percent) following a 2-for-24 stretch with the extra attacker over their eight games since returning from the All-Star break.

But, given the amount of high-caliber talent the they possess, especially on their top unit, it feels like just one strong night could swing momentum back in Florida's favor on the man advantage.

Jonathan Huberdeau ranks fifth in the league with 26 points on the power play, while Keith Yandle (20), Mike Hoffman (18) and Aleksander Barkov (18) have also produced very well. Evgenii Dadonov, meanwhile, ranks tied for ninth in the league in power-play goals with 10.

"We've been pretty fortunate all year having the power play be a big part of our offense," Quenneville said. "When it goes a little a dry, it extends [to other areas]."

Trailing Toronto (30-20-8) by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand, the Panthers (30-21-6) will look to get a spark from their special teams when they host the Edmonton Oilers in an important matinee matchup on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET at BB&T Center.

The Oilers, who boast the fifth-best penalty kill in the league at 83.5 percent, have lost three of their last five games and are coming off a 3-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Saturday. That being said, they still reside in second place in the Pacific Division with a very respectable record of 30-21-6.

In their only previous meeting this season, Florida won 6-2 in Edmonton back on Oct. 27.

"They've got a strong team game," Quenneville said. "They've improved in that area. Obviously they've got some key players that you've got to be aware of, but they're missing the key-est maybe in the game. It's something to be aware of with that group."

The "key-est" player Quenneville is referring to is Connor McDavid, who is expected to miss 2-3 weeks after suffering a quad injury on Feb. 8 at Nashville. Arguably the top player in the league, the 23-year-old center ranked tied for second in the league with 81 points (30 goals, 51 assists).

That said, the Panthers are focusing more on themselves right now rather than the opposition.

Following a big 5-3 win in New Jersey on Tuesday, Florida opened up its two-game homestand with a 6-2 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday - their second loss to the Flyers in less than a week.

"We need more consistency out of our group," Quenneville said. "No matter who you're out there with or who you're out there against, we've got to get more predictable in our team game, with and without the puck. That urgency or that compete- level has got to be at that high standard we're going to need to be a playoff team."

With 25 games left on their schedule, that playoff push is really starting to ramp up.

"I think we've just got to find our game again - more intensity, more emotion," Huberdeau said. "Since the All-Star break we haven't showed anything really. Right now, we know it's important, but we've got to have fun too… Everybody is coming to the rink and excited about that challenge."

BOYLE TO MISS WEEKS

The Panthers will be without Brian Boyle for "weeks," according Quenneville.

Last taking the ice on Feb. 1 in Montreal, Boyle has sat out the last seven contests while dealing with an upper-body injury. After signing a one-year deal with Florida on Oct. 20, the 35-year-old center has tallied 15 points (six goals, nine assists), 34 blocked shots and 65 hits in 39 games.

"He brings the intangibles, leadership, doing things the right way," Quenneville said of Boyle, who has suited up in 805 regular-season NHL games. "He gives us some size, faceoffs, power play, net presence, PK [penalty kill] at times. He plays the right way, plays in some big moments. He can share the responsibility. He'll still be around. He can provide that as well."

Quenneville said he's optimistic that Boyle will return before the end of the season.

"We expect him back before the end of the year, but he's going to be out for a while," he said.

QUICK HITS

-- Quenneville said Noel Acciari is "good to go" after leaving Thursday's game early.

-- Jayce Hawryluk missed practice with an illness.

-- Sergei Bobrovsky missed practice with an illness.

-- Mike Hoffman took a maintenance day.

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