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Panthers' Yandle Carries Iron Man Streak into Matchup with Arizona

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

The last time Keith Yandle missed a game, he was wearing a Phoenix Coyotes jersey.

The NHL's active iron man, Yandle is expected to take the ice for his 777th consecutive game when the Florida Panthers visit Arizona on Tuesday night at Gila River Arena, breaking a tie with Craig Ramsay for sole possession of the fifth-longest such streak in league history.

"To play any game in the league is special," said Yandle, who leads Florida's defenseman with 49 points this season. "For me, I never take it for granted. You come to the rink and enjoy every moment of it, try to get better every day. To play any games in the NHL is a true honor for me."

Yandle, whose last night off came on March 22, 2009, played a major role in helping Florida top the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime on Monday. Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the 32-year-old defenseman helped get the comeback started when he set up Troy Brouwer for a goal to get the Panthers on the board at 2-1. Just 1:09 later, Evgenii Dadonov scored to make it 2-2.

Then, behind 3-2 near the midway point of the third period, Yandle's second primary assist of the night got the game to overtime, finding Mike Hoffman in the left circle for game-tying goal.

"Yandle made a great pass to me on the backdoor," said Hoffman, who leads Florida with 27 goals. "We were able to tie it up and get a little momentum back on our side after they got one. Then it was it was a pretty 50-50 game going on, and anything can happen in overtime."

Just 26 seconds into the extra frame, Hoffman set up Aaron Ekblad for the game-winning goal. 

Video: FLA@COL: Ekblad pots Hoffman's pass for OT winner

Still in the hunt with 21 games left to play, the Panthers (28-25-8) have won seven of their last 10 games, outscoring their opponents 26-14 in that span. As it stands now, they sit eight points behind Carolina for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand.

"We know we've got a tough task at hand, but I believe we've got the character and the heart in this room," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "We're going to battle together right 'til the end. They sure did that [against Colorado]. Being down 2-0 and then being down 3-2, finding ways to win games at this time of year is never easy. I think they've done a great job of that recently."

Like the Panthers, the Coyotes are also fighting for their playoff lives.

Just three points behind Minnesota for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, Arizona (29-28-5) has won six of its last eight games, including a 4-1 victory over Winnipeg on Sunday in which goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves to pick up his fourth straight win.

"We know this is a big homestand for us, and we started it with a nice win over a very good Winnipeg team on Sunday," Kuemper told NHL.com. "We've just got to keep taking care of business. We're focused on playing Florida and we'll be ready to go."

Kuemper, who is expected to get the nod in net on Tuesday night, has been the driving force behind the Coyotes' late-season surge, owning a 6-1-0 record over his last seven starts with a .943 save percentage and one shutout. In that span, he's allowed more than two goals once.

"The team as a whole has been really committed to the defensive side of the puck and has been willing to pay the price to do what it takes to win," Kuemper said. "Everyone is just doing their job right now, and that's all I'm trying to do, too."

With Kuemper rolling, the main battle to watch will be on special teams, where the Panthers own the league's third-best power play (26.3 percent). With Yandle, who ranks fifth in the NHL with 30 power-play points, quarterbacking the team's top unit, Florida will look to solve Arizona's second-ranked penalty kill (85.6 percent), which is led by Kuemper's .906 PK save percentage.

The Panthers have won each of their last three games against the Coyotes.

NOTES

-- Named the NHL's "Second Star of the Week" on Monday, Aleksander Barkov has posted 12 points (six goals, six assists) during his current five-game point streak. Florida's scoring leader with 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists), he also ranks second in the NHL in takeaways (85).

-- Mike Hoffman leads the Panthers in goals (27), power-play goals (tied-11), game-winning goals (tied-5) and shots on goal (197). The 29-year-old needs just three more goal to surpass his previous career-high (29, 2015-16) and achieve the first 30-goal campaign of his career.

-- Frank Vatrano leads the Panthers with 19 even-strength goals and has reached new career-highs in goals (20), assists (13) and points (33) this season. The 24-year-old winger also paces the club's forwards in blocked shots (55).

-- Jonathan Huberdeau enters tonight's contest with eight points (four goals, four assists) over his last five games. The 25-year-old winger ranks second on Florida in scoring with 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists) this season, while also pacing the club with 20 multi-point performances.

-- Evgenii Dadonov enters tonight's matchup riding a six-game point streak, posting three goals and four assists in that span. The 29-year-old winger ranks third on the Panthers in goals (22) and tied for fourth in points (49).

-- With a 36-save performance on Monday, Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo earned his 485th career win, passing Ed Belfour for sole possession of third place on the NHL's all-time wins list. He owns a 6-2-0 record with a .931 save percentage over his last eight starts

-- The Panthers have gone 57-for-64 (89.1 percent) on the penalty kill over their last 25 games.

GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME (UNCONFIRMED)

James Reimer (13-11-5, 3.05 GAA, .901 SV%) vs. Darcy Kuemper (17-14-5, 2.59 GAA, .917 SV%)

With Luongo starting on Monday in Colorado, the Panthers are expected to go with Reimer in Arizona. The 30-year-old backup owns a 5-3-0 record over his last eight starts, posting a .921 save percentage in that span. In his career against the Coyotes, he's gone 5-3-0 with 2.13 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and one shutout.

Based on his recent play, there's a good chance Kuemper gets the nod for the fourth straight game. The 28-year-old has won each of his last four starts, owning a .960 save percentage in wins over Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. In his career against Florida' he's gone 1-1-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and one shutout.

PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Frank Vatrano

Jayce Hawryluk - Vincent Trocheck - Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman - Riley Sheahan - Troy Brouwer

Jamie McGinn - Henrik Borgstrom - Dryden Hunt

Defense

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Mark Pysyk - MacKenzie Weegar

Ian McCoshen - Josh Brown

Goalies

James Reimer

Roberto Luongo

Scratches: Denis Malgin (lower body), Mike Matheson (lower body)

Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Colton Sceviour (upper body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Feb. 25: F Dryden Hunt was recalled from Springfield (AHL)

- Feb. 25: F Cliff Pu was acquired from Carolina in exchange for future considerations

- Feb. 25: F Derick Brassard and a conditional 2020 sixth-round pick were traded to Colorado for a 2020 third-round pick

- Feb. 25: F Jean-Sebastien Dea was acquired from Pittsburgh for D Chris Wideman

- Feb. 25: D Bogdan Kiselevich was traded to Winnipeg for a 2021 seventh-round pick

- Feb. 25: The Panthers signed F Frank Vatrano to a three-year contract extension

- Feb. 24: The Panthers signed G Chris Driedger to a one-year, two-way contract

- Feb. 22: F Vincent Praplan was acquired from San Jose in exchange for future considerations

HOW TO WATCH

When: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 9:00 p.m.

Where: Gila River Arena - Glendale, AZ

TV: Fox Sports Florida (Alternate Channels Below)

Dish: 443

Dish HD: 9581

Dish Hopper: 412-31

DTV HD: 654-1

AT&T: 721

AT&T HD: 1721

Stream: HERE

Florida Panthers Radio Network: 790 WAXY (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Watch Party: Thanks to the new "Territory on Tap" program, every road game now offers a chance for a watch party in South Florida! To see which local bars and restaurants will be having drink specials and giveaways for today's game, visit the official "Territory on Tap" page!

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