SUNRISE, Fla. - With an opportunity to extend their winning streak to five games, the Florida Panthers will once again turn to red-hot goaltender Harri Sateri when the Los Angeles Kings visit BB&T Center on Friday night.
Sateri, who began the season as Florida's third-string netminder, won the first NHL game of his career on Jan. 30 and hasn't lost since, backstopping the Panthers to four consecutive wins behind a 1.50 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage. The 28-year-old rookie has stopped 156 of 166 shots over the last five games - the second-most saves in the NHL during that span.
"The guys have rallied around him," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after Friday's morning skate. "I thought that we've tightened up our defensive game as well. It's sort of infectious. It's a great story and they're along for the ride and helping him out."
James Reimer, who has missed the last five games with a groin injury, was cleared to play this week and will back up Sateri against the Kings. Roberto Luongo, who hasn't played since injuring his groin on Dec. 4, practiced for the first time on Thursday, but isn't expected to return to action until next week.
"He's afforded us the opportunity to keep playing him - he's earned it -- and not rush anybody back," Boughner said. "We've always said we want to do the right thing, especially with Louie. We don't want to bring him back [at] 90 percent. We want him 100 percent. It's a nice little luxury we have right now."
The Panthers (23-22-6) were 12 points back of a place in the postseason heading into the All-Star break, but have managed to gain substantial ground during their current unbeaten streak. Entering Friday night's contest, they now sit just six points behind Columbus for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand.
Boughner said his team isn't looking too much at the big picture.
"I think about a month ago we were concentrating on the standings, trying to climb over and looking at the scoreboard every night," Boughner said. "We've sort of simplified it in the last little while about just preparing for our opponent, strictly talking about L.A. yesterday. It's obviously going to (be about) L.A. today.
"These guys know this is our last game before we go on a long road trip. These points are important for us. But these next 25-30 games, it doesn't matter who we play. L.A.'s fighting for their life; we're fighting for our life. This is our playoffs."
The Kings (29-19-5) have won four of their last five games and are coming off a dominant two-game homestand in which they defeated Arizona and Edmonton by a combined score of 11-2. Center Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 57 points (21-36-57), including 17 (4-13-17) over his last 14 games.
Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, who is tied for first on the team with 18 goals, has often drawn comparisons to Kopitar for his defensive prowess and workhorse mentality. Barkov, 22, leads all NHL forwards in average ice time this season (22:15), while Kopitar ranks second (21:51).
At even-strength, Florida controls 52.7 percent of shot attempts when Barkov is on the ice, just ahead of Kopitar's 52.68 percent for the Kings. In the faceoff circle, Barkov has won a career-high 54.4 percent of his draws this season, including a team-best 57.9% in the defensive zone. Kopitar has won 54 percent.
With those kind of numbers, Barkov and Kopitar are both potential finalists for the Selke Trophy, which is awarded annually to the best forward in the league each season, and their matchup on Friday night is certainly something to keep an eye on.
"They're both really good players," Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson said. "They're very skilled players. They play well defensively. They're not the type of guys that cheat to get their offense. They make it happen with their size and skill. For us, we have to be aware of [Kopitar] when we're on the ice against him. We know that he's a great player."
In net, Los Angeles is expected to go with starting goalie Jonathan Quick, who is 20-18-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average a .919 save percentage and three shutouts this season. The Kings defeated the Panthers 4-0 on Nov. 18 in California.
"They don't score a lot of goals, but they seem to win a lot of games 3-2 or 2-1," Boughner said. "These guys have won a couple championships together. They know how to win tight games and they're comfortable in those games."
- Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has posted 47 points (18-29-47) in 50 games this season, including 14 points (7-7-14) over his last 13 contests. He enters tonight's matchup riding a three-game point streak (3-1-4) and has posted goals in back-to-back games.
- Jonathan Huberdeau has posted a team-leading 51 points (18-33-51) in 51 games for the Panthers this season, including 19 (9-10-19) points over his last 17 contests. The 24-year winger also leads Florida in assists (33), primary assists (22), multi-goal games (3) and points per 60 (3.03).
- Panthers center Vincent Trocheck has recorded 24 points (8-16-24) over his last 25 games and has posted assists (5) in four of his last five games. 2016-17). The 24-year old also leads Florida in shots (184) and ranks fourth in the NHL for average ice time among forwards (21:32).
- Keith Yandle enters tonight's contest ranking first among Florida's defensemen in points (31), assists (25) and power-play points (8), while also leading the club in total ice time (1258:35). Currently the owner of the NHL's longest active consecutive games played streak, Yandle ranks seventh all-time in consecutive games played (684).
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin
Jamie McGinn - Jared McCann - Maxim Mamin
Micheal Haley - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen - Alex Petrovic
Scratches: MacKenzie Weegar, Radim Vrbata, Connor Brickley
Injured Reserve: Roberto Luongo (games missed: 24)
- Feb. 7: G James Reimer activated from IR
- Feb. 7: G Samuel Montembeault loaned to Springfield (AHL)
- Jan. 29: G Samuel Montembeault recalled from Springfield (AHL)
- Jan. 29: F Maxim Mamin recalled from Springfield (AHL)
- Jan. 29: D Ian McCoshen recalled from Springfield (AHL)
HOW TO WATCH
When: Friday, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV coverage: FOX Sports Florida (check local listings)
Florida Panthers Radio Network Presented by HARD Lifestyle Beverages: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
Where to stream it: FOX Sports GO and NHL.TV (outside state of Florida)