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PREVIEW: Panthers Look to Extend Point Streak in Rematch with Stars

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - With a chance to push their point streak to eight games, the Panthers will be looking to get a little bit of revenge when they welcome the Stars to FLA Live Arena on Friday.

Owning an outstanding 6-0-1 record since coming out of the NHL's brief pause due to COVID-19, that lone defeat for the Panthers came during a 6-5 shootout loss at Dallas back on Jan. 6.

"I thought we played a pretty good road game," Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said of the team's first meeting with the Stars. "We just had a few little areas we had to clean up. Being on home ice, I think we can dictate the pace that we want to play, which should be huge."

Sitting at 24-7-5 and owning the best points percentage in the league (.736), the Panthers have been on a tear during their point streak. Averaging almost six goals per game, they've outscored the opposition 38-20 over their last seven games, including a 5-2 win over the Canucks on Tuesday.

Rushing out to an early 2-0 lead against Vancouver, Sam Reinhart (times two!), Aaron Ekblad, Maxim Mamin and Aleksander Barkov all lit the lamp in the win, while Sergei Bobrovsky, who will get the start tonight, turned aside 42 of 44 shots to improve his personal record to 17-3-3.

Picking up an assist in the win to extend his point streak to six games, Jonathan Huberdeau was named to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game on Thursday. Leading the Panthers in scoring, the dynamic playmaker ranks fifth in the league in points (47) and tied for second in assists (34).

Since Nov. 30, he's tallied a league-leading 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 15 games.

"It's obviously fun representing the team," said Huberdeau, a two-time all-star (2020, 2022). "It's an honor. It means your season is going well. With us, there was a lot of options. Some [other] guys should be there, but sometimes it's one per team. I'm excited to go there and have fun."

Right now, fans can also vote to send Barkov to the event as one of the league's "Last Men In" by visiting NHL.com/LastMenIn.

"I think Ekky deserves it as much as me, and obviously Barky should be there every year," Huberdeau said. "That's how it works sometimes. Hopefully 'Last Man In' can be one of us."

In sixth place in the Central Division, the Stars improved to 18-13-2 with a 5-2 win against the Kraken on Wednesday. After having six games postponed, Dallas has won three of four games since returning to action while surrendering two-or-fewer goals in all but one of those contests.

That one other contest, of course, being their 6-5 shootout win over the Panthers.

Heading to the All-Star Game, Joe Pavelski, who produced five points (two goals, three assists) against Seattle, leads the Stars in goals (15), assists (20) and points (35). Not far behind, Jason Robertson, who has six goals in nine career games against Florida, sits second with 32 points.

Expected to take the ice for the 900th game of his NHL career tonight, Stars captain Jamie Benn has accumulated 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) over 25 career games against the Panthers.

In the crease, either Jake Oettinger or Braden Holtby will draw in for Dallas. Sharing duties this season, Oettinger has gone 9-2-0 with a .923 save percentage, while Holtby is 6-8-1 with a. 920 save percentage. In four games since the pause, the team has alternated between netminders.

"They've got a lot of skill and they work hard," Panthers forward Sam Bennett said. "We know what to expect. We played them not too long ago. It's an important one for us to get wins on home ice right before a long road trip."

Turning their barn into a fortress, the Panthers own a 19-3-0 record in Sunrise and lead the league in goals (98), shots per game (38.4) and five-on-five shots (690) at home this season.

"It was a high-scoring game in Dallas, and now coming into this game at home we've got to play better defensively," Huberdeau said. "Obviously they're a good offensive team. We've just got to play well defensively. We know we can score goals, so we've just got to be better defensively."

PANTHERS PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart

Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair

Frank Vatrano - Anton Lundell - Maxim Mamin

Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist

Defensemen

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas

Olli Juolevi - Brandon Montour

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight

WHO'S HOT

Panthers: Aleksander Barkov has nine points (five goals, four assists) over his last six games. … Jonathan Huberdeau has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) over his last six games. … Anthony Duclair has seven points (four goals, three assists) over his last six games. … Sam Reinhart has six points (two goals, four assists) over his last three games. … Aaron Ekblad has seven points (one goal, six assists) over his last four games.

Stars: Jason Robertson has 11 points (five goals, six assists) over his last seven games. … Joe Pavelski has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) over his last six games. … Roope Hintz has eight points (three goals, five assists) over his last six games. … Miro Heiskanen has six points (one goal, five assists) over his last five games.

THEY SAID IT

"His ability to find plays that no one else on the ice would be able to see, he does that like no one else I'd ever seen. I think one other thing that really separates him from a lot of other good playmakers is just his compete level, his competitiveness and how hard he battles every shift." -- Panthers forward Sam Bennett on Jonathan Huberdeau's skillset.

"It was a fun night, pucks going in the net and we're getting a lot of chances. You know the fifth one, usually when you have a night where you put a few points on the board it's your linemates that have been really good, which was a big part of the case here tonight." -- Stars forward Joe Pavelski after his five-point game against Seattle on Wednesday.

FIVE CATS STATS

- The Panthers boast a league-best seven players with at least 10 goals.

- Florida has had at least one defenseman tally a point in all 36 games this season.

- Aleksander Barkov has scored three shorthanded goals over his last six games.

- Aaron Ekblad ranks second among NHL defenseman with a +23 rating.

- MacKenzie Weegar ranks second on the Panthers in hits (103) and first in blocks (78).

PANTHERS TRANSACTIONS

- Jan. 12: F Aleksi Heponiemi loaned to Taxi Squad

- Jan. 11: F Aleksi Heponiemi recalled from Taxi Squad to active roster

- Jan. 9: D Matt Kiersted and D Chase Priskie reassigned from Taxi Squad to Charlotte (AHL)

PANTHERS NEWS

- Jonathan Huberdeau Named To 2022 NHL All-Star Game Roster 

- NOTEBOOK: Acciari at Practice; Bobrovsky Standing Tall 

- 5 TAKEAWAYS: Reinhart Strong in Return as Panthers Top Canucks 

- Andrew Brunette Named Atlantic Division Coach at 2022 NHL All-Star Game 

- Territory Talk: Lundell Joins the Show; Panthers Still on Fire 

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Friday, Jan. 14 at 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: FLA Live Arena - Sunrise, FL

TV: Bally Sports Florida, NHL Network

Stream: Bally Sports App

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Channel 91 / App & Streaming 932

Tickets: HERE

IN-ARENA ACTIVAITONS

- Purchase before puck drop to earn double the number of 50/50 Raffle tickets. Tonight's 50/50 raffle is part of the combined weekend home game jackpot and a winner will be chosen following tomorrow's game against the Blue Jackets.

- As part of the ¡Vamos Gatos! initiative, fans can use their phones to enjoy a special Spanish-language broadcast within the FLA Live! App through the team's partnership with ProWire.

To check out Octavio Sequera on the call, click HERE to download the FLA Live! App now.

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