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Panthers Host Senators as Huberdeau Skates in 500th NHL Game

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/16/19 Morning Skate

12/16/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville and forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

  • 01:10 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Jonathan Huberdeau is expected to suit up in the 500th game of his NHL career when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center on Monday night.

The third-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Huberdeau is in the midst of his eighth season with the Panthers and currently ranks second behind only Olli Jokinen on the team's all-time scoring list with 396 points. Additionally, he also stands as the franchise's all-time assists leader (260).

"You always see the guys going to 1,000 games, so I'm halfway there," said Huberdeau, who leads the team in scoring with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) this season. "I'm just going to enjoy it, but right now it's more about winning a game. I didn't even know [it was tonight]."

The penultimate game on their franchise-record, nine-game homestand, the Panthers (15-12-5) will look to shake out of a three-game losing streak against the Senators. Prior to that, the team had won three out of four games, including back-to-back wins over Columbus and San Jose.

Despite averaging the fifth-most goals per game in the league (3.31), Florida has found the back of the net just four times over its last three games, which has prompted coach Joel Quenneville to shake up his lines a bit against the Senators in an effort to re-ignite the team's potent attack.

"You're not happy with results, and that usually leads to looking at your options," Quenneville said of the changes. "We're looking for some balance, some consistency on all the lines and getting a better four-line rotation... We know the importance of today's game and the value of it."

Taking a look specifically at the team's top-six forwards -- based on the lines during Sunday's practice -- it appears that Aleksander Barkov will be centering Frank Vatrano and Brett Connolly on the top line, while Huberdeau and Noel Acciari will flank Vincent Trocheck on the second.

Huberdeau said he believes the new-look lineup should give the team a spark.

"It hasn't been working the last few games, so change it around," he said. "It never hurts. I think we've just got to come into tonight and keep it simple, work as hard as we can and get the win."

Playing his best hockey of the season, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to make his sixth straight start for the Panthers. Over his last five outings, the 31-year-old has stopped 174 of 183 shots (.951 percent) while allowing more than two goals during just one of those starts.

In 14 career games against Ottawa, Bobrovsky's gone 8-5-1 with a .911 save percentage.

"I think he's had five really strong games here at home," Quenneville said of Bobrovsky, who owns an 11-9-4 record this season. "I think we've improved what we're giving up [defensively], but I don't think we've had the puck enough or made it hard enough on the other team."

Fresh off a 4-3 overtime win against Columbus on Saturday, the Senators (14-17-2) have won three of their last five games thanks, in large part, to a few huge showings from Anthony Duclair.

Named the NHL's "Second Star of the Week" on Monday, the 24-year-old forward recorded five goals -- including a pair of multi-goal performances -- and one assist in three games last week.

Duclair leads Ottawa and ranks tied for ninth in the league in goals (18), including eight over his last five games. Since being acquired by the Senators on Feb. 23, he has 26 goals in 55 games.

"He's a good player," Barkov said of Duclair. "He can skate and he can make plays. Obviously we're going to treat him like other really good players on other teams. Overall, we're just going to try to play our own game -- play really well defensively and really well offensively, too."

Ottawa has yet to announce a starting goalie, but Anders Nilsson has gotten the nod in each of the last four games. In that span, the 29-year-old has gone 2-1-1 with a .920 save percentage.

This is the first meeting between the two clubs this season.

The Panthers went 3-1-0 against the Senators in 2018-19.

"They play as a pack of five," Quenneville said of Ottawa. "They're simple and they're straight ahead. They're physical and they're not going to make it easy on you. They play one of those games where they keep themselves in the play, they chip the puck, they move around it, and they look to support it and win those puck battles."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists). Over his last 20 games, the 26-year-old winger has recorded 24 points (six goals, 18 assists).

-- Aleksander Barkov leads Florida in multi-point games (13) and ranks second in scoring with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists). Over his last 20 games, the 24-year-old center has notched 10 goals and 13 assists.

-- Brett Connolly leads the Panthers with 14 goals. The 27-year-old winger also ranks sixth on the team in points (22). Over his last 13 contests, he's found the back of the net eight times.

-- Mike Hoffman has posted five points (two goals, three assists) over his last five games. The 30-year-old winger ranks tied for second on Florida in goals (12) and is also fifth in points (23).

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (24:02) and also paces the club's defensemen in goals (5). Accumulating 19 points so far this season, the 23-year-old has racked up three goals and six assists over his last 11 games.

-- Keith Yandle ranks tied for second among the league's defensemen in assists (24) and also sits second in power-play points (15). The 33-year-old paces Florida's defensemen and ranks tied for third among the league's blueliners with 28 points, including 10 in his last eight games.

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks fourth in points (24) and tied for second in goals (12) on the Panthers.

-- Noel Acciari ranks first on the Panthers in hits (51); Anton Stralman has the most blocks (46).

-- Mark Pysyk enters tonight's matchup on a two-game point streak (one goal, one assist).

PROJECTED LINEUP (OPTIONAL MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Frank Vatrano - Aleksander Barkov - Brett Connolly

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari

Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Evgenii Dadonov

Mark Pysyk - Dominic Toninato - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratches: Denis Malgin

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Dec. 11: F Jayce Hawryluk was assigned to AHL Springfield on a conditioning loan.

- Dec. 11: F Aleksi Saarela was loaned to AHL Springfield.

- Dec. 6: F Aleksi Saarela was recalled from AHL Springfield.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle

- Pop-Up Holiday Bar in Coors Light Cold Zone

- Santa Claus Photo Opportunity

BITE OF BB&T CENTER

- Crab Fries for $8 at Select Concession Stands

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Monday, Dec. 16, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Tickets: HERE

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