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Preview: Panthers Look for Repeat Performance Against Slumping Stars

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Panthers found their recipe for success last time out against the Stars.

Firing off a franchise-record 29 shots on goal during the second period of Monday's 3-1 win, the Panthers never took their foot off the gas, suffocating the Stars in their own end with a relentless forecheck while peppering the opposing netminder with an onslaught of pucks at an absurd rate.

By the time the final buzzer sounded in the game, Florida led 52-25 in shots on goal.

"It was fun to watch," coach Joel Quenneville said. "The guys really had a lot of energy and great speed. With our exits and our transition game, the changes almost looked like we had an odd-man rush coming. We just kept doing it. I liked the rotation. I liked the speed of our game."

With an opportunity to pad their position as the top team in the Central Division, the Panthers (12-3-2) will now attempt to bring that same high level of intensity when they host the Stars (5-4-4) in the second meeting of their three-game set at BB&T Center on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.

"Against good teams, you have to do those things," forward Patric Hornqvist said of Florida's effort in Game 1. "If we can keep doing the same thing, I'm pretty sure we can get more goals."

For the Panthers, the goals have certainly been flowing in the early goings of this season.

Carrying the league's fifth-ranked offense (3.41 goals per game) and eighth-ranked power play (28.6%) into tonight's matchup, Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists), while Aleksander Barkov is second with 19 (seven goals, 12 assists).

"You just want to keep being close and making small plays," Hornqvist, who leads the team with eight goals, said when asked about the keys to a strong attack. "There's no standing still out there. You've got to always be moving - move to the puck, move before you get the puck."

With a chance to push his personal winning streak to five games, Chris Driedger will make his second straight start for the Panthers after stopping 24 of 25 shots in Monday's victory. Through nine appearances this season, the 26-year-old has gone 7-1-1 behind a .929 save percentage.

With Driedger starting the first half of the back-to-back tonight, Quenneville said that it's "very likely" that Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 5-2-1, will get the nod for the second half on Thursday.

"He made a couple big saves after the first goal," Quenneville said of Driedger after Monday's win. "I thought he settled down a little bit. In the third he still found a way to battle and kept his composure in tight situations. He does what he has to do. I like the way he keeps moving on."

Across the ice, the Stars are looking to break out of a rough slump.

With Monday's loss to the Panthers, the team dropped its sixth straight game. After opening up the season with four straight victories, Dallas has lost eight of its last nine overall. In that nine-game span, they've been outscored 29-22 while netting just one-or-fewer goals in four contests.

Joe Pavelski leads the Stars with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists), but has posted just two - both goals - over his last five games. John Klingberg leads the team's blueliners with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists), while forwards Denis Gurianov and Alexander Radulov have 11 apiece.

"We just fell apart," Klingberg said after Monday's loss. "It's sports, it happens, but it's not acceptable the way it happened. Just shift after shift we just cracked everywhere. We're not in the right spots and we turned the puck over in the wrong places all the time. We get long shifts out there, so we have to ice it or chip it out and we have to stay out longer, so it's a bad circle."

In the opposing crease, the Cats will draw Anton Khudobin once again. Sitting at 3-4-1 with a .915 save percentage, the 34-year-old veteran tied a career-high with 49 saves on Monday.

"He's a great goalie," Barkov said of Khudobin's admirable performance last game. "He did a great job today. Facing 50-plus shots is not an easy thing to do. I think we did a good job." 

Over their last four meetings with the Stars, the Panthers own a 3-1-0 record.

TEAM RECORDS

FLA: 12-3-2, 26 PTS

DAL: 5-4-4, 14 PTS

FLA all-time vs. DAL: 18-17-3-1

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Aaron Ekblad leads Florida's defensemen in goals (6) and power-play goals (3). With one more power-play goal, he'll pass Robert Svehla (26) for the most by a blueliner in franchise history. A workhorse, the 25-year-old also leads the club in average ice time per game (24:58).

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on the Panthers scoring with 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists), including posting three goals and four assists over his last five games. In 11 career matchups against the Stars, the 25-year-old center has registered six goals.

-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). In 12 career games against the Stars, the 27-year-old winger has 14 points (five goals, nine assists).

-- Carter Verhaeghe is tied for second on the Panthers in goals (7).

-- Radko Gudas is tied for first in the NHL with 90 hits, including 37 over his last seven contests.

-- Patric Hornqvist leads the Panthers in both goals (8) and power-play goals (5). In 32 career games against Dallas, the 34-year-old veteran has produced 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists).

-- Keith Yandle leads Florida's defensemen in scoring with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) and is also tied for first on the team in power-play points with nine (one goal, eight assists).

-- Anthony Duclair (two goals, two assists) and MacKenzie Weegar (one goal, three assists) have each accumulated four points over their last five games played.

-- Brett Connolly is one goal away from his 100th in the NHL.

PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair

Jonathan Huberdeau - Alex Wennberg - Patric Hornqvist

Frank Vatrano - Eetu Luostarinen - Brett Connolly

Ryan Lomberg - Juho Lammikko - Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Anton Stralman

Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas

Goaltenders

Chris Driedger

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: Owen Tippett, Markus Nutivaara, Noah Juulsen

Taxi squad: Mason Marchment, Kevin Connauton, Riley Stillman, Philippe Desrosiers

Injured reserve: Noel Acciari (upper body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Feb. 22: D Riley Stillman was reassigned from Syracuse (AHL) to Florida's Taxi Squad; F Scott Wilson was reassigned to Syracuse (AHL).

- Feb. 17: D Gustav Forsling was activated from IR; F Noel Acciari was placed on IR.

IN-ARENA ACTIVATIONS

- 50/50 Raffle

- A limited number of fans will be admitted to BB&T Center for home games this season. Learn about the health and safety precautions that have been taken as a part of the "Red Reminders" program presented in conjunction with Baptist Health South Florida at FloridaPanthers.com/RedReminders.

- Mobile Ordering is now available at BB&T Center for Panthers games. Visit FloridaPanthers.com/MobileOrdering for all the info.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 5:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FOX Sports Florida

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 99.9 FM WKIS HD-2 (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys) 107.9 FM/1370 AM WZTA (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Ch. 221 / Streaming 932

Tickets: HERE

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