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Panthers Look for Revenge in Rubber Match with Flyers

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/13/20 Morning Skate

2/13/20 Morning Skate

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Noel Acciari andd defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

  • 01:15 •

After losing 4-1 in Philadelphia on Monday, MacKenzie Weegar didn't mince words.

"It's good to see them in a few days," he said bluntly. "We'll take back our two points."

Just a few days removed from that defeat, the Florida Panthers certainly still have revenge on their mind as they prepare to host the Flyers in a pivotal matchup at BB&T Center on Thursday night.

"Huge," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said of the rematch. "We owe it to ourselves [to win]. They got the best of us in their building. It's our time and our job to do it in our building."

In the midst of a heated playoff push, the Panthers (30-20-6) currently trail Toronto (30-19-8) by just two points for third place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. In the wild card race, they sit three points behind the Flyers (31-19-7) for the second spot, also with a game in hand.

The rubber match between the two clubs this season, Florida won 5-2 in Sunrise on Nov. 19.

"Match their desperation," Ekblad said. "We've got to find a way, especially at home, to get out there and really jump on them early and find a way to hold leads throughout the game. We don't expect there to be any easy competition at all the rest of the way in, so we need these games."

The Panthers enter tonight's tilt on the heels of a 5-3 win in New Jersey on Tuesday in which a very unique lineup change by head coach Joel Quenneville ended up paying off huge dividends.

After playing as a defenseman his entire career, Mike Matheson was moved to the fourth line to play at forward alongside center Noel Acciari, who slid down from the right wing spot on the second line, and fellow defenseman-turned-forward Mark Pysyk, who made the transition earlier this year.

The end result? A combined eight points (three goals, five assists) for the trio in the win.

"They keep it simple," Quenneville said of the line, which Keith Yandle has dubbed "The Helicopter" due to its lack of traditional wingers. "They keep themselves in the play. They've got good sticks. They keep the puck. They protect the puck and put it in areas where they've got a chance to retrieve it.

"They put it to the areas at the net. They get to the net and they win loose puck battles and they retrieve pucks and get it back. Basically, they check well, and they keep the puck. When we're playing well, we have the puck way more than the other team."

After backing up rookie Sam Montembeault against the Devils, Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the nod in net tonight. Over his last 10 appearances, the 31-year-old goaltender has gone 5-4-1 with a .908 save percentage. Playing at home this season, he's registered a 12-7-2 record.

For the Flyers, Carter Hart is expected to be back between the pipes after stopping 30 of 31 shots in Monday's win over the Panthers. Over his last four starts, the 21-year-old second-year pro has gone 3-1-0 with a .924 save percentage. All of those games, however, were at home.

On the road, Hart is 2-9-1 with a 4.01 goals-against average and .850 save percentage.

"I think he's looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that tonight's game is going to bring," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said of Hart. "This is a highly-skilled team. They've got a real good transition game. We're going to have to be at our best when it's time to check."

Sean Couturier leads Philadelphia with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists), while Travis Konecny has the most goals (19). Jakub Voracek ranks third on the team with 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists), including the primary assist on James van Riemsdyk's game-winner on Monday.

The Flyers enter tonight's contest fresh off a 5-3 loss at the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"We've got to be a lot harder on the puck and watch our turnovers," Acciari said when asked about the key's to tonight's matchup. "I think we played maybe 15 minutes out of [Monday's loss in Philadelphia]. I think we've got to play the full 60 and make sure that we have all four lines going, all six D and the goalie. If we get that going, we're a tough team to beat."

In broadcasting news, tonight's game will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network.

"We don't want to disappoint," Acciari said of playing on NBCSN. "It's going to be a good game."

The Panthers have won their last four home games against the Flyers.

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Aleksander Barkov registered the 400th point of his NHL career on Monday in Philadelphia, becoming just the third player in Panthers history to ever reach that mark. The 24-year-old center ranks second on the team in scoring with 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) this season.

-- Evgenii Dadonov leads Florida in goals (23) and power-play goals (10).

-- Mike Hoffman has at least one point in 14 of his last 17 games, recording eight goals and 11 assists in that span. The 30-year-old winger ranks second on the Panthers in goals (21), third in points (46) and first in shots (159). He also leads the team in goals scored on home ice (14).

-- A 2020 NHL All-Star, Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers and ranks tied for 10th in the league with 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists). Playing some of his best hockey on home ice, the 26-year-old winger paces the club in points (43) and power-play points (16) at BB&T Center.

-- Noel Acciari ranks tied for third on Florida with a career-high 19 goals. In addition to his offensive numbers, he also stands first among the league's forwards in blocked shots (83).

-- Keith Yandle ranks first among Florida's defensemen with 40 points (five goals, 35 assists), marking the seventh straight season he's hit the 40-point plateau. The NHL's active "Iron Man," the 33-year-old is expected to suit up in his 854th consecutive regular-season game tonight.

-- Frank Vatrano has recorded 11 points (six goals, five assists) over his past 13 games.

-- Mark Pysyk has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists) over his last 16 games, including a pair of three-point performances. Making the switch from defense to forward this season, the 28-year-old has already set a new career-high with eight goals.

-- Vincent Trocheck has notched four points (one goal, three assists) over his last four games. The 26-year-old center leads Florida in takeaways (45) and sits third on the team in hits (74).

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Dominic Toninato - Colton Sceviour

Mike Matheson - Noel Acciari - Mark Pysyk

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratches: Denis Malgin, Jayce Hawryluk, Brian Boyle (upper-body)

Injured Reserve: Chris Driedger (lower-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Jan. 30: G Sam Montembeault and D Riley Stillman were recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Jan. 22: G Sam Montembeault and D Riley Stillman were loaned to AHL Springfield.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle

- $5 Beer Thursday

- Hoffman's Chocolates Takeover Night

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Thursday, Feb. 13, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: NBC Sports Network

Stream: NBC Sports App

Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys) 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM 221/Streaming 932

Tickets: HERE

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