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Panthers Host Stars, Wrap Up Nine-Game Homestand

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/20/19 Morning Skate

12/20/19 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Aleksander Barkov and defenseman Mike Matheson.

  • 01:10 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers will look to close out their franchise-record, nine-game homestand on a high note when they welcome the Dallas Stars to BB&T Center on Friday night.

Following a convincing 6-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday, the Panthers improved to 4-4-0 on their epic homestand. Noel Acciari led the way with the first hat trick of his NHL career, while Jonathan Huberdeau registered a career-high four assists to reach the 400-point plateau.

At 16-12-5, Florida currently sits two points out of third place in the Atlantic Division.

"We want to finish it on a good note and then go on the road and get a couple wins," said Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. "But, obviously, all we're thinking about is tonight's game. We want to finish this homestand really well. Every game is very important. If you look at the standings, there's a lot of teams with the same points. We've just got to keep climbing."

Prior to the win over Ottawa, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville shuffled the lines quite a bit. And while the trio of Vincent Trocheck, Huberdeau and Acciari did most of the damage on offense, all four lines, which are expected to look similar tonight, appeared energized by the shakeup.

Barkov noted that team chemistry, both on and off the ice, helped smooth over the transition.

"A little bit different players, but at the same time they're your teammates and you have good chemistry with them," said Barkov, who centered Frank Vatrano and Brett Connolly on the team's new-look top line. "It doesn't matter who you play. Obviously Conns and Frankie are really good players. They can score and make plays. I've just got to be ready all the time."

After starting the last six games, Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to make is seven tonight.

In stopping 29 of 30 shots against the Senators, the 31-year-old goaltender continued a stellar stretch in which he's turned aside a combined 203 of 213 shots for a .953 save percentage. In that six-game span, he's posted a 3-3-0 record while allowing more than two goals just once.

"It was definitely a really big game for us," Bobrovsky, who sits at 12-9-4 on the season, said after the win over the Senators. "We need those points. We need good feelings in the locker room. I thought the guys did a great job."

The Stars (20-12-4) have won five of their last seven games and enter tonight's matchup on the heels of a 4-3 overtime win at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Despite being outplayed for most of the contest, Dallas got to the extra frame, where Tyler Seguin scored the game-winning goal.

"That's the worst game we've played for a while, so we'll take it and run," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness told reporters after the game." Dobby (Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin) was great. We weren't very good and that's clear. I was very proud how we fought back."

After Khudobin started last night, Florida is expected to draw Ben Bishop, who owns a 12-7-3 record with a 2.07 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and one shutout this season.

Seguin ranks first on the Stars with 28 points, while Roope Hintz has tallied the most goals (12). Alexander Radulov, who ranks second on the club with 24 points, is on a six-game point streak. Joe Pavelski, who's in his first season with Dallas, is expected to play in his 1,000th NHL game.

"They play a tight game, but they're fast," Quenneville said of the Stars. "They're quick. There's not a lot of time. They really take away the middle of the ice. They've got some guys that can make plays and a couple defensemen that like to go."

Speaking of defensemen that can chip in on offense, second-year pro Miro Heiskanen is off to another hot start after finishing fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy last season. In 36 games, the 20-year-old has seven goals and 14 assists while averaging 24:24 of ice time per contest.

"He's one of those players that came into the league and in a short amount of time you say, 'Wow, this kid's going to special.'" Quenneville said. "He has the ability to jump by people. He sees plays and he can kill plays. He influences a lot of the time he's on the ice."

While Dallas is coming off a back-to-back, Florida has had three days in between games.

"It's always tough coming off a back-to-back, and we're going to be doing it tomorrow night," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "You have to take advantage of it. You have to make sure you're not making the game easy on them."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers and ranks 10th in the league with 41 points. He also leads the team and ranks sixth in the league in assists (30). Over his last 21 games, the 26-year-old winger has recorded 28 points (six goals, 22 assists).

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on Florida in points (37) and assists (26). Over his last 21 games, the 24-year-old center has notched 24 points (11 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 14 contests, he's found the back of the net eight times.

-- Mike Hoffman has posted five points (two goals, three assists) over his last six 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 (23:58) and also paces the club's defensemen in goals (5). Racking up 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) so far this season, the 23-year-old has notched three goals and eight assists over his last 12 games.

-- Keith Yandle ranks second among the league's defensemen in assists (25) and power-play points (15). The 33-year-old paces Florida's defensemen and ranks tied for fourth among the league's blueliners with 29 points, including 11 over his last nine 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 (53); Anton Stralman has the most blocks (48).

PROJECTED LINEUP (OPTIONAL MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Frank Vatrano - Aleksander Barkov - Brett Connolly

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari

Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Evgenii Dadonov

Colton Sceviour - Dominic Toninato - Mark Pysyk

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson - 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

- Pizza for $11 at Select Concession Stands

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Friday, Dec. 20, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FSF (Alternate Channels Below)

DTV: 654-1

AT&T: 721 | AT&T HD: 1721

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SIRIUSXM 220/STREAMING 932

Tickets: HERE

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