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NOTEBOOK: Yandle Honored, Power Play on Fire and More!

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/18/19 Practice

11/18/19 Practice

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Aleksander Barkov and defenseman Keith Yandle.

  • 01:50 •

In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Keith Yandle is named the NHL's "Third Star of the Week," the Panthers are cruising on the power play and Dryden Hunt is sent to AHL Springfield.

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Keith Yandle was greeted with some good news this afternoon.

Following Monday's practice at the Panthers IceDen, the veteran defenseman discovered he'd been named the NHL's "Third Star of the Week" after registering one goal and seven assists in three games to help lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-0-1 record during the week ending Nov. 17.

Overall, Yandle's eight points led all defenseman and ranked third in the league last week.

"It's great. Any time you get recognized for a good week of work is fun," said Yandle, who had multiple points in each of the three games. "It probably could've been anyone on our team."

Yandle kicked off the week with three points - including a late game-tying goal - in Tuesday's 5-4 shootout win in Boston. The biggest comeback in Florida's history, the win also marked just the ninth time in NHL history a visiting team erased a four-goal deficit in the third period to win.

From there, the 33-year-old picked up a pair of assists in a 4-3 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday before racking up three more assists in a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday.

When told that he was joined on the "Three Stars" list by Edmonton's Connor McDavid and Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, Yandle couldn't help but crack a joke at his own expense.

"They're probably like, 'Oh, what did this guy do?'" he smiled.

After recording a career-high 62 points - including a single-season franchise record 53 assists -- in 2018-19, Yandle is off to another hot start on offense once again. Through the first 20 games of this campaign, he ranks sixth among NHL blueliners in points (18) and third in assists (16).

"He's the best," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "He's a really good guy and a really good player. We're just really lucky to have him. Especially on the power play, too, without him we wouldn't be anything. His passes and shots are really good. He's a really good leader and really good to have in the locker room."

POWER PLAY ON FIRE

With Yandle's help, the Panthers continue to dominate on the power play.

Lighting the lamp on the man advantage in each of their last nine games, the team has gone 11-for-31 and ranks second in the league in that span with a 33.5 percent success rate. Thanks to that hot stretch, their power play has climbed up to 27 percent, which ranks fourth in the league.

"It's a lot of fun to be a part of that group, especially when you're finding ways to help your team win games," said Yandle, whose 11 power-play points are tied for first among the league's defensemen. "It's not like you're getting goals that don't matter. We're scoring big-time goals when we need it most. Our group and our team, it's coming from all five of us [on the top unit]."

Somewhat of a rarity in hockey, the Panthers have benefitted from returning every member of their top power play unit that helped the team set a franchise record with a 26.8 percent rate of success last season. Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman are manning the circles, Evgenii Dadonov is in the middle, Barkov's in front of the net and Yandle is quarterbacking from up top.

Of the team's 17 power-play goals this season, 15 have come from that top unit.

"You let them be and see how quickly the chemistry is recaptured among them all," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of keeping the dangerous unit intact. "No matter which players you're seeing out there with the puck, one guy is as dangerous as the next guy… It's tough for the opponents to cover, and they're having fun right now with it. There's a lot of different looks."

Like Quenneville, Barkov said the power play's success stems from its wealth of weapons.

Hoffman, armed with arguably one of the best shots in the league, tied with Dadonov for the most power-play goals on the team with five. Barkov is right behind them with four power-play goals of his own, while Huberdeau and Yandle have each chipped in 11 power-play points.

For opposing penalty kills, it's basically a pick-your-poison scenario.

"Hoff is a really good shooter, so they try to take away him. It opens up different options," Barkov said. "Huby is a great passer; Yands is a great passer and a great shooter. They just get pucks to the net. Me and Daddy try to be there, put pucks in and make those little plays."

HUNT SENT DOWN

The Panthers loaned winger Dryden Hunt to AHL Springfield this afternoon.

Making the team out of training camp, the 23-year-old had been a regular fixture on the fourth line in the early goings of this season. Playing in each of the team's first 20 games, he posted four assists, six blocked shots and a team-leading 35 hits while averaging 10:48 per game.

Quenneville said he wants to see Hunt rediscover his scoring touch in the AHL.

"I think Huntsy in the past scores goals and has done a lot of good things," Quenneville said of Hunt, who has scored 23 goals in each of his last two seasons with Springfield. "I think at our level we don't want to stay he's just a defensive-type of player. If he can recapture some of that scoring that he's had in the past and be comfortable in that area with the puck, he can add that up here as well."

Florida is expected to announce a corresponding move later today.

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