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Panthers Host Sharks, Close the Book on Back-to-Back Set

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers will look to keep things simple when they close out a back-to-back set against the San Jose Sharks at BB&T Center on Sunday night at 5 p.m. ET.

On Saturday, Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves against his former team and Josh Brown scored the game-winning goal to lift the Panthers to a 4-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.

"Back-to-back's always tough, but I think that's how you get to this level," Brown said. "We've got to suck it up, get some rest tonight and come back and try and do the same thing. San Jose's a pretty good team, but I think if we can stick to our fundamentals we'll be alright."

Opening up their franchise-record, nine-game homestand with two wins in three games, Florida currently resides in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 14-9-5 record. In that three-game stretch, they've surrendered one-or-fewer goals two times and own an overall advantage of 9-5.

Against Columbus, they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the first period on a goal from Evgenii Dadonov. In the second, Brown extended the lead to 2-0 with his second goal of the season. In the third, Brett Connolly's team-leading 13th goal of the campaign made it 3-0.

With the game nearing its end, Mike Hoffman scored an empty-netter to lock in the 4-1 win.

"We all wanted to start something good here in the home stretch," said Hoffman, who is tied for second on the team with 11 goals. "I think tonight was a big night for it. Obviously against Bob's former team, it's always nice to get a win for your goalie when that happens. I thought everyone played well. Brownie had a big goal for us. It got us going and I think we just rolled from there."

Aleksander Barkov also picked up a pair of assists in the win to move into a tie with Jonathan Huberdeau for the team-scoring lead with 34 points. Over the last 16 games, the top-line duo has been producing on offense at an absurd rate, tallying a combined 15 goals and 27 assists.

Averaging 3.46 goals per game, the Panthers currently possess the fifth-ranked offense in the league. Over their last seven home games, they've netted at least four goals five different times.

Overall, Florida owns an 8-4-2 record at home this season.

"It's an important homestand for us," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "The first game we had we did everything right. For part of the game the next night it looked like we were on the right path. I thought we did really good things [against Columbus] for the most part. Let's keep playing the right way here at home. If you do that, you'll get good results."

The Sharks (15-14-2) are currently mired in a three-game skid, including a lopsided 7-1 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Giving up at least five goals in three of their last six outings, they've seen their defense drop to 28th in the league at 3.39 goals allowed per game.

Evander Kane paces the team in goals (13), while Logan Couture has the most points (29).

After being pulled in favor of backup Aaron Dell after allowing four goals on 21 shots against the Lightning, the Sharks could go back to Martin Jones in net tonight.

As for the Panthers, backup Chris Driedger could slide back into the crease after Bobrovsky got the nod in last night's game. Driedger is 1-1-0 this season with a .942 save percentage and one shutout.

"We've got a dangerous opponent after today," Quenneville said after last night's win, looking ahead to the Sharks. "We know that San Jose is one of those teams that has a ton of speed. They play a fast game and have very mobile and active defensemen."

The Panthers have won each of their last two meetings with the Sharks.

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Jonathan Huberdeau has registered at least one point in 21 of Florida's 28 games and is tied for the team-scoring lead with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists). With one more point, the 26-year-old winger will tie Stephen Weiss (394) for the second-most points in franchise history.

-- Keith Yandle ranks first among Florida's defensemen in points (24) and is also tied for second among the league's blueliners in assists (22). Entering tonight's matchup on a four-game point streak, the 33-year-old has six assists in that span. Over his last 17 games, he has 20 points.

-- Brett Connolly leads the Panthers with 13 goals. The 27-year-old winger also ranks tied for fifth on the team in points (20). Over his last 10 games, he's scored a team-high seven times.

-- Vincent Trocheck has three goal and five assists over his last 10 games. The 26-year-old winger also leads Florida in takeaways (23) and ranks third in faceoff win percentage (52.9).

-- Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers in multi-point games (12) and is tied for first in points (34). Of those points, 25 are assists - the sixth-most in the league. With one more goal, the 24-year-old center will tie with Stephen Weiss (249) for the fourth-most goals in franchise history.

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in average ice time per game (23:58), while also leading the club's defensemen in goals (5). Over his last seven games, the 23-year-old has tallied two goals and three assists, including the first multi-goal game of his career on Nov. 21 against Anaheim.

-- Evgenii Dadonov is tied for second on Florida in goals (11) and ranks fourth in points (22).

-- Anton Stralman scored his first two goals of the season to help lead the Panthers past the Predators on Nov. 30. The fourth multi-goal game of his career, the 33-year-old defenseman also leads the team in blocks (40) and ranks second in average ice time per game (21:10).

-- Mike Hoffman leads the Panthers in shots (83) and tied for second in goals (11).

-- Noel Acciari leads Florida in hits (41) and ranks second in blocks (39).

-- Brian Boyle leads the Panthers with a 56.2 faceoff win percentage.

PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Aleksi Saarela - Noel Acciari

Dominic Toninato - Brian Boyle - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson - Josh Brown

Goalies

Chris Driedger

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: Mark Pysyk, Denis Malgin, Jayce Hawryluk (upper-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

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

- Nov. 25: G Chris Driedger was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Nov. 25: G Sam Montembeault was loaned to AHL Springfield.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle 

BITE OF BB&T CENTER

- Chicken Sandwich for $8 at Select Concession Stands

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Sunday, Dec. 8, 5:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: WKIS-FM 99.9 HD-2 (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); SiriusXM 219, App/Streaming 932

Tickets: HERE

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