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Panthers Aim to Keep Improving in Rematch with Lightning

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

9/26/19 Morning Skate

9/26/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forwards Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett

  • 01:55 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - In the first of five straight matchups between the cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers cruised to a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at BB&T Center.

Heading into Thursday night's rematch, however, the Panthers believe they can be even better.

"There were a lot of positives, but then some stuff we've got to learn from," said Panthers center Henrik Borgstrom, who has a goal and two assists over his last two games. "We discussed those things. Hopefully we can take those things we saw and do all of the right things tonight."

In Round 1 of what head coach Joel Quenneville once described as a "mini playoff series," the Panthers received offensive contributions from all four of their forward lines against Tampa Bay. Aleksander Barkov, who leads the team with five preseason points, scored twice, while Frank Vatrano, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dominic Toninato and Denis Malgin each lit the lamp once.

Florida has scored 16 goals over its last three preseason games, going 2-0-1 in the process.

"I think there was some good things in the game," said Quenneville, who is preparing for his first season behind Florida's bench. "We're just looking to increase the speed of our team game, our puck movement. I think our D-zone wasn't bad. Trying to negate their rush game is something that we talk about. Keeping the puck a little more is something that we'd like to do."

After joining the team on a seven-year contract on July 1, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made his preseason debut on Tuesday, stopping 12 of 14 shots over 31:08 of ice time. Manning the crease again tonight, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner is expected to play the entire game.

"He's getting sharper every single day," Quenneville said of Bobrovsky, who leads the NHL with 115 wins over the last three seasons. "He's excited about tonight. It's been a good progression for him to gradually get the net. You'll see him again on Saturday night, too."

With Huberdeau sitting out tonight's game - "He should be skating tomorrow," Quenneville said. - Malgin will take his spot on the top line alongside Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov. In four games thus far, the 22-year-old has produced regularly on offense, racking up a goal and two assists.

Quenneville said he's been impressed with Malgin's performance throughout training camp.

"He's had the puck a lot," said Quenneville, who complimented Malgin's versatility. "He's had the puck through the middle with quickness and speed. I like how he sees the ice. You can use him in defensive situations, and offensively he sees what's going on out there."

Owen Tippett will be returning to the lineup tonight after sitting out Tuesday's win. As he fights for one of the team's final roster spots, the 20-year-old sniper is starting to heat up on offense, scoring goals in consecutive games to increase his preseason point total to three in four games.

In 2017-18, he played in seven games with Florida, scoring once before going back to juniors.

"It's the same as every other game," said Tippett, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. "It's a chance to prove myself and, obviously, just play the game I know I can play. It's exciting. It's coming down the home stretch and there's only a few games left before the season starts."

Quenneville said the fiery rookie has been making good progress throughout training camp.

"I think he's got high-end skill. I think he's got an NHL shot, playmaking, play recognition," Quenneville said. "He's starting to have more pace to his game, which is what we're looking for. He's got all of the ingredients that you look for in an NHL player. That consistency from where he was to where he's got to get to is what we're looking for, but his camp's progressing in that way."

Winners of the 2018-19 Presidents' Trophy following a 128-point season, the Lightning currently sit at 1-3-1 through five preseason games. Carter Verhaeghe leads the team with four points, while Nikita Kucherov, last season's Hart Trophy winner, is tied with the team-lead for goals (2).

In Tuesday's loss, Alexander Volkov, Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev each scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, allowed six goals on 24 shots.

"They're a good team," Panthers winger Brett Connolly said of the Lightning. "They play fast. That's kind of what we need to do against them. We need to play with our speed and play their game and play the right way and we'll be fine. They're definitely a good team and a good matchup for us."

NOTES

-- Brett Connolly, who signed a four-year deal with the Panthers this summer, has tallied two goals in two preseason games thus far. A Stanley Cup champion with Washington in 2018, he had career-highs in goals (22), points (46) and games played (81) with the Capitals last season.

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers with four assists in the preseason. The 23-year-old blueliner posted 13 goals, 24 assists, 88 blocked shots and a career-best 114 hits while seeing a team-high 1,938:49 of ice time last season. He has at least 10 goals in each of his first five seasons.

-- Mike Hoffman has two power-play goals in four preseason games. The 29-year-old winger led the Panthers with a career-best 36 goals last season, including 17 on the power play, which was tied for fourth-most in the NHL. In 2018-19, he also reached a new career-high with 70 points.

-- Joel Quenneville is entering his first season as head coach of the Panthers after being hired by the team in April. The NHL's second-winningest head coach with 890 career regular-season victories, he led the Chicago Blackhawks to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

-- The Panthers ranked second on the power play (26.8 percent) and 10th on the penalty kill (81.3 percent) during the 2018-19 campaign. On the man advantage, defenseman Keith Yandle set a franchise-record 39 points. That total also placed him third in the NHL last season behind only Tampa Bay forwards Steven Stamkos (40) and Nikita Kucherov (48).

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Denis Malgin - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Owen Tippett

Jayce Hawryluk - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Anton Stralman

Riley Stillman - MacKenzie Weegar

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratches: Josh Brown, Mark Pysyk, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dryden Hunt, Dominic Toninato

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Sept. 26: F Anthony Greco, D Ian McCoshen and G Chris Driedger were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 25: F Troy Brouwer was released from his professional tryout.

- Sept. 23: D Ethan Prow, D Thomas Schemitsch and G Phillipe Desrosiers were loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Sept. 21: F Serron Noel was returned to his junior club.

- 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 Springfield.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Thursday, Sept. 26, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FOX Sports GO, Panthers Vision

Radio: NHL App

Tickets: HERE

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