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Panthers Kick Off 2020 with Matchup in Ottawa

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

The Florida Panthers know they're getting closer to being the team they want to be.

After enduring a 4-1 loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on New Year's Eve, Panthers center Vincent Trocheck said the team just needs to "tighten a few things up" heading into their first matchup of 2020 against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night.

"We just need to get back to our game and start playing the right way," Trocheck said after Wednesday's practice. "I think there was a lot of good things that came from yesterday's game."

Indeed, there was.

Despite the end result, the Panthers owned big advantages in shot attempts (73-42) and scoring chances (32-12) over the Blue Jackets. Looking back at the game, head coach Joel Quenneville wasn't displeased with the team's performance, adding there was a lot more good than bad in it.

"I thought we did a lot of good things," Quenneville said. "After 40 minutes, being down a goal, we felt good about the way we played at that stage of the game. I think maybe a little more net presence would have been better for us and getting in the areas might have been more productive offensively. I thought we generated enough decent looks. It's one of those nights where we did some good things, so let's be positive going into tomorrow's game [at Ottawa]."

Closing the book on 2019 with wins in five of seven games, the Panthers own a 20-14-5 record and trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by just one point for third in the Atlantic Division. Led by 2020 All-Star Jonathan Huberdeau, they currently rank tied for fourth in the league in goals per game (3.49).

A first-time All-Star, Huberdeau leads the team in goals (16), assists (37) and points (53). One of the hottest skaters in the league this holiday season, the 26-year-old winger finished tied with New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin for the most points in the entire league in December (22).

In his career against Ottawa, Huberdeau has produced at nearly a point-per-game clip, tallying 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 25 games. The last time these two teams met, he racked up four assists to help lead Florida to a 6-1 win over the Senators at BB&T Center on Dec. 16.

"Great start to the year," Quenneville said. "He's had a great stretch here recently as well. He gets rewarded with an All-Star appearance. Very well deserved. He's got a hot stick right now."

Earning at least one point in eight of their last 10 games to improve to 16-19-5, Ottawa enters tonight's matchup on the heels of a 5-2 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. In defeat, Nick Paul potted a pair of goals for the Senators, who saw their five-game point streak snapped.

Anthony Duclair, a 2020 All-Star, leads the team in scoring 31 points and also sits 11th in the league with 21 goals. In the midst of a breakout campaign, the 24-year-old forward has found the back of the net 11 times over his last 12 games, including three multi-goal performances.

"They want to get to the net and get inside," Quenneville said. "Let's make them defend."

While the Panthers have yet to announce a starting goaltender, it wouldn't be a surprise if they rolled with Sergei Bobrovsky. Over his last 10 starts, the 31-year-old owns a 5-5-0 record with a .917 save percentage. In his career against Ottawa, he's gone 9-5-1.

The Senators, meanwhile, are expected to deploy Craig Anderson, who owns a 4-2-1 record with a .927 save percentage over his last eight appearances. In his career against Florida, the 38-year-old goaltender has gone 16-9-2 with a .921 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Panthers have won each of their last two games against Ottawa.

"It's a good opportunity to bounce back after the Columbus game," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "We've been playing good hockey, but at the same time we've been giving up too much defensively. That's definitely going to be an area of focus."

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Noel Acciari has recorded eight goals over his last seven games -- including consecutive hat tricks -- and has already set a new career-highs in goals (13) and points (16) this season. The 28-year-old forward also ranks first on the Panthers in hits (67) and second in blocks (55).

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on Florida in points (45) and assists (31), while also leading the team in multi-point performances (15). Over his last 27 games, the 24-year-old center has notched 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).

-- Keith Yandle ranks fourth among the league's defensemen in assists (32) and tied for second in power-play points (15). The 33-year-old also paces Florida's defensemen and sits seventh among the league's blueliners in scoring with 30 points, including 12 over his last 15 games.

-- Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in ice time per game (23:12) and plus-minus (+12). The 23-year-old also ranks first among the club's defensemen in goals (5) and second in assists (18).

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks third on the Panthers in goals (14) and fourth in points (29). Over his last six games, the 30-year-old winger has accumulated four points (two goals, two assists).

-- Vincent Trocheck has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) over his last 21 games. The 26-year-old center also leads Florida in takeaways (32) and sits second in faceoff win percentage (53.4).

-- Mike Matheson has posted three goals and three assists over his last 10 games.

-- Brett Connolly ranks second on the Panthers in goals (15).

-- Anton Stralman enters tonight's matchup on a three-game point streak in which he's notched one goal and two assists. The 33-year-old blueliner also leads the Panthers in blocks (59).

-- Florida owns a 15-2-2 record when scoring first this season.

PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Brett Connolly - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari

Frank Vatrano - Brian Boyle - Mike Hoffman

Colton Sceviour - Dominic Toninato - Mark Pysyk

Defensemen

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratches: Jayce Hawryluk, Denis Malgin, MacKenzie Weegar (injured)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Dec. 27: D Riley Stillman was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Dec. 23: F Jayce Hawryluk was recalled from his conditioning loan with AHL Springfield.

- Dec. 17: F Ryan Haggerty was acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for F Kevin Roy

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

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Canadian Tire Centre - Ottawa, ON 

TV: FSF

Stream: FOX Sports GO

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

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

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