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Oklahoma Bound: Panthers Go Toe-to-Toe with Stars in Tulsa

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Florida Panthers will continue their preseason on the road with a neutral-site game against the Dallas Stars at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday night.

This is the second year in a row that the two teams have gone toe-to-toe in Tulsa. The Panthers lit the lamp 2:30 into overtime to secure a 4-3 win in inaugural game of the series on Sept. 22, 2018.

"Hockey in that state, it's very well received," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said after morning skate at the Panthers IceDen. "It'll be fun going there…. It's a game where I think both teams are still sorting things out among their personnel, and at the same time solidifying how they're going to play."

The Panthers are coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday. Brett Connolly scored the game-tying goal on the power play to make it 4-4 at 10:10 of the third period to get the game to overtime and give Florida its first point of the preseason.

Anthony Greco, Jonathan Ang and Owen Tippett also scored for the Panthers.

"I think it was one of those games where we didn't have the puck enough," Quenneville said of the loss. "They were dictating the pace, had good speed, and we were chasing the game a little bit. I think sometimes in our system, we want to make sure that you don't have hesitation. You're trying to work on implementing how to play in all three zones.

"At the same time, we've got to play a little bit quicker and [start] forcing these guys in all three zones when we don't have the puck. Taking away that hesitation of thinking 'Am I in the right place, or should I go or not go? I think that's an area we can improve upon. I think that'll help give [opposing players] less time and create some turnovers."

Connolly, who signed a four-year deal with the Panthers on July 1, leads the team in both goals (2) and points (3) in the preseason. Last season as a member of the Washington Capitals, the 27-year-old veteran forward set career-highs in goals (22), points (46) and games played (81).

"He's obviously a veteran guy who's won," Panthers winger Frank Vatrano said of Connolly, who won a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018. "He's got the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup… It's good to see the success that he's having and hopefully he can keep it going."

Making his second appearance of the preseason, 22-year-old goaltender Sam Montembeault played the entire game in Montreal for the Panthers, finishing with 42 saves. A third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, he's stopped 60 of 65 shots (.923 percent) over parts of two exhibitions.

Quenneville said the plan is for Montembeault to play the entire game once again versus Dallas.

"He's going the full 60 again," Quenneville said.

Tonight's tilt will also mark Florida's fifth road game in the span of less than seven days. The jam-packed week began in Nashville on Monday with a doubleheader against the Predators. From there, they played back-to-back games against Montreal on Wednesday and Thursday, with the former being played in Bathurst, New Brunswick for the Kraft Hockeyville celebration.

"It gets you kind of used to the travel again," Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, who led the team with a career-high 36 goals last season, said of the schedule. "In the preseason, there's always trips like this where we go and play in cities that don't have NHL teams. It's always a fun time. Kraft Hockeyville was a good experience. I think the guys really enjoyed it. Now, today, we're going to Tulsa."

The Stars, meanwhile, are fresh off a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday. Entering the third period trailing 1-0, forwards Scottie Upshall and Michael Mersch each found the back of the net in the final frame to seal the come-from-behind victory for Dallas.

Jake Oettinger, a first-round pick in the 2017 draft, played the first two periods for the Stars and allowed one goal on 32 shots. Landon Bow made 15 saves in relief. The team has deployed five different goaltenders through their first three preseason games, giving up a total of four goals.

Miro Heiskanen leads the Stars in preseason scoring with two points (both assists) in one game. The third-overall pick in the 2017 draft, the 20-year-old defenseman registered 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in 82 games as a rookie last season - the Finn's first in North America.

The top scorers on Dallas during the 2018-19 campaign, forwards Tyler Seguin (33 goals, 80 points) and Alexander Radulov (29 goals, 72 points), have yet to make their preseason debuts.

"I think the biggest thing is just trying to get back into game shape and the speed of things," Hoffman said of the preseason. "It's also working on the new systems that were brought in, creating some chemistry with players on the team. I think those are the three biggest things."

Florida will play its first preseason game at home on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NOTES

-- Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov each tallied two points in the one preseason game they've played in. Huberdeau and Dadonov have notched a goal and an assist, while Barkov has chipped in two helpers. Last season, the top-line trio combined for 258 points.

-- Ethan Prow, who joined Florida as a free agent on July 1, and Aaron Ekblad currently lead all Panthers defensemen in scoring in the preseason with two assists each. Prow, 26, appeared in 74 regular season games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), registering a team-leading 50 points (18-32-50). He was also named to the 2018-19 AHL Second All-Star Team.

-- Noel Acciari had a game-high seven hits in Montreal on Thursday. Joining the Panthers on a three-year deal on July 1, the 27-year-old forward racked up 373 hits over the last two seasons with the Boston Bruins. He also recorded six goals and eight assists in 72 games in 2018-19.

-- Owen Tippett, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft, registered his first goal of the preseason on Thursday against the Canadiens. Entering his first pro season, the 20-year-old sniper posted 33 goals and a career-high 41 assists in 54-regular games in his final OHL season in 2018-19.

-- The Panthers have gone 15-for-15 on the penalty kill to start the preseason.

PROJECTED ROSTER

Forwards

Frank Vatrano

Mike Hoffman

Henrik Borgstrom

Owen Tippett

Noel Acciari

Dominic Toninato

Troy Brouwer

Denis Malgin

Dryden Hunt

Anthony Greco

Colton Sceviour

Jayce Hawryluk

Defensemen

Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson

Mark Pysyk

Ian McCoshen

Riley Stillman

Thomas Schemitsch

Goalies

Sam Montembeault

Philippe Desrosiers

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Sept. 21 - F Rodrigo Abols, F Jonathan Ang, F Joel Lowry, F Kevin Roy, F Paul Thompson, D Tommy Cross, D Jake Massie, and G Ryan Bednard were loaned to AHL Apringfield. 

- Sept. 21 - F. Serron Noel has been returned to his junior club.

- Sept. 17: F Patrick Bajkov, F Blaine Byron, F Aleksi Heponiemi, F Jake Horton, F Cliff Pu, F Sebastian Repo, F Adam Rockwood, D Brady Keeper and D Will Lochead were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 17: G Joseph Raaymakers was released from his professional tryout.

- Sept. 15: F Matt Marcinew, F Greg Meireles, F Liam Pecararo, F Matthew Wedman, D Gustav Bouramman and D Dylan MacPherson were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 15: F Cole Schwindt, F Henrik Rybinski, D Vladislav Kolyachonok and D John Ludvig were returned to their junior clubs.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: BOK Center - Tulsa, Okla.

TV: n/a

Radio: Stream HERE

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