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Panthers Host Red Wings, Look to Build On Strong Road Trip

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/2/19 Morning Skate

11/2/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Brett Connolly and defenseman Anton Stralman.

  • 01:35 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Following a successful road trip, the Florida Panthers will look to keep picking up points on home ice when they host the Detroit Red Wings at BB&T Center on Saturday night.

The Panthers (6-3-4) finished their recent four-game trek through the Western Conference with five out of a possible eight points, including a 4-3 overtime win in Colorado at Wednesday night.

"I thought we pulled out a real character win there in Colorado," Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman said. "That's something we need to build on. I think we're still looking for that complete game. I thought the Edmonton game was obviously one of our best ones all year. That's the kind of effort we're seeking every night. So far it's been a little inconsistent, but we can get there."

Stralman isn't the only player pointing to Florida's huge 6-2 win in Edmonton on Oct. 27 as the blueprint for success going forward. In that victory, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period and never looked back, holding on to hand the Oilers their first home loss of the season.

When leading after 40 minutes like in Edmonton, the Panthers own a perfect 4-0-0 record.

"That was obviously our best game of the road trip," Panthers winger Brett Connolly said. "It seemed like we had everyone playing hard, playing smart and making good plays. We're just going to try and duplicate that. We'll see what kind of plays we can make tonight. We're a confident group. We know we're getting better. We know there's obviously a lot to improve on, but it's good. We're playing meaningful hockey right from Game 1, and that's what we want."

While Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov reside atop the team's scoring list with 15 points apiece, the Panthers have been receiving contributions from every corner of their lineup to start the season. As it stands now, 17 different skaters on the team have at least one goal.

That depth-scoring will continue to be important as the team deals with injuries to several key players. Center Vincent Trocheck will miss his sixth straight game tonight, while defenseman Mike Matheson will be sidelined for his fifth. Both players are dealing with lower-body injuries.

Additionally, winger Jayce Hawryluk is expected to miss a month with an upper-body injury.

"We have a lot of guys who are confident that they can chip in," Connolly said. "With [Panthers coach Joel Quenneville], every night if you're playing well, you're going to play more. If you're not, it doesn't matter who you are, you're not going to play. The message is loud and clear. It's good. Everybody's ready to go. Everybody knows every game is so important for the team and individually. It makes for a good environment. Guys are pushing, and it's helping us get points."

Helping fill the void left by the team's injured forwards, defenseman Mark Pysyk will be sliding up from the blue line to play up front against the Red Wings. In eight games this year, the 27-year-old has suited up as a forward three times and scored a goal in Calgary back on Oct. 24.

In the 31:33 he's spent as a forward at 5-on-5, Pysyk has yet to be on the ice for a goal against.

"When he plays there, he gives us a lot of predictability," Quenneville said. "He's aware. I think, positionally, he does the right things and keeps himself in the play. He's got some quickness to his game and his handy around the boards with the puck. He can keep it and then sustain it."

With 10 of their first 13 games coming against teams currently holding onto playoff spots, the Panthers will face a new challenge when they host a Detroit team that's desperate for a win.

After winning three of their first four games, the Red Wings (4-9-1) enter tonight's matchup with losses in nine of their last 10 games. In the first half of their current back-to-back, they suffered a 7-3 loss at Carolina - the seventh time they've surrendered at least five goals this campaign.

Anthony Mantha scored twice in the loss, increasing his team-leading goal total to nine.

"It's a dangerous opponent," Quenneville said. "They're coming off a tough one last night. We expect them to come in here and play hard. They can skate and they work. We expect that type of a game -- a scrappy, grinding-type of game. Let's make sure that we're ready to play the right way and have respect for what's going to be coming tonight."

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to man Florida's crease tonight. The 31-year-old goaltender has backstopped the Panthers to at least one point in each of his last seven starts, posting a 4-0-3 record in that span. As for the Red Wings, the situation in net is far less clear at the moment.

In Carolina, starter Jimmy Howard gave up five goals on 21 shots before being pulled midway through the second period. In his relief, backup Jonathan Bernier turned aside 11 of 12 shots. At this point, either could start in Florida, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Bernier get the nod.

The Panthers have won each of their last three games against Detroit.

"They'll be playing hard," Connolly said of the Red Wings. "Obviously they haven't had the start they've wanted. They'll be hungry to get a win here. They obviously played last night… They need points. They're going to be a tough test tonight for us. They've got some good players. Every team in this league is so good, if you're not ready for teams they'll beat you on any night."

NOTES

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks tied for second on the Panthers in goals (6) and third in points (11).

-- Denis Malgin has registered six points (two goals, four assists) over his last seven games.

-- Mackenzie Weegar leads Florida's defenseman in both goals (3) and points (9).

-- Frank Vatrano has tallied three points (two goals, one assist) over his last five games.

-- Brian Boyle has notched three points (two goals, one assist) over his last three games.

-- Mike Hoffman has posted six goals, including a team-leading three on the power play.

-- Dryden Hunt leads the Panthers in hits (27).

-- Aaron Ekblad has tallied six points (one goal, five assists) over his last seven games. The 23-year-old is also Florida's leader in average ice time (24:49), which places him 10th in the league.

-- Anton Stralman is tied with Noel Acciari for the most blocked shots (22) on the Panthers. The 33-year-old defenseman also needs to post just one more assist for the 200th of his NHL career.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Denis Malgin - Mark Pysyk

Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratches: Vincent Trocheck (lower-body), Mike Matheson (lower-body), Jayce Hawryluk (upper-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Oct. 26: The Panthers acquired F Jack Rodewald from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the rights to F Chris Wilkie.

- Oct. 24: D Riley Stillman was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Oct. 22: The Panthers acquired F Aleksi Saarela from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Ian McCoshen.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle with $25,00 guaranteed pot

- Territory Takeover: Pembroke Pines / Southwest Ranches

- Panthers license plate ordering from the Florida Department of Mobile Vehicles

BITE OF BB&T CENTER

- Chicken Tenders for $11

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Saturday, Nov. 2, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: 790 WAXY (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys)

Tickets: HERE

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