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Preview: Panthers 'Need to Respond Right Away' in Rematch with Stars

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Panthers have made a habit out of bouncing back this season.

Going 5-0-0 in games following losses thus far, the Panthers, who currently sit in first place in the Central Division at 12-4-2, have made clear their recipe for dealing with defeat - take it all in, analyze the film and then flip a switch and move right past it onto the next challenge ahead.

Following a 3-0 loss to the Stars on Wednesday, the Panthers will now look to continue that positive trend when they close out a back-to-back with Dallas on Thursday at BB&T Center.

"You've got to respond right away," forward Brett Connolly said after last night's defeat. "You can't let losses accumulate. You've got to stop the bleeding right away. Tomorrow is a huge game. We need to respond. We're going to get the exact same Dallas Stars team tomorrow."

Shut out for the first time this season, Connolly and his teammates threw everything they had at Anton Khudobin last night, but simply couldn't get anything past the Stars red-hot goaltender. A game removed from making 49 saves, the 34-year-old stopped all 43 shots that came his way.

That being said, the numbers tell us that the Panthers played well enough to win if not for those heroics in net. Per NaturalStatTrick.com, by the time the final buzzer sounded they owned large advantages in shot attempts (67-42), high-danger attempts (11-6) and scoring chances (29-16).

But with Khudobin needing minimal goal support, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Joel Kiviranta all found the back of the net to help the Stars break out of a six-game losing streak with the win.

"Goalies can win games at times," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You get some goalie wins our way, and you can get beat by some goalie wins like tonight. I think their goalie was pretty good, but I still thought it was a pretty even game."

The good news is that the Panthers likely won't see Khudobin again tonight.

While no starting goaltender has been announced yet for either team, the tiring nature of back-to-backs - as well as this season's grueling schedule in general - could mean that rookie Jake Oettinger, who owns a 2-0-3 record with a .910 save percentage, gets the nod in net for Dallas.

As for the Panthers, Quenneville said before yesterday's game that Sergei Bobrovsky would "very likely" start today's game after backing up Chris Driedger last night. In eight games this season, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has gone 5-2-1 on top of a .889 save percentage.

Taking a look at each team's top offensive players, Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists), while Aleksander Barkov ranks second with 19 (seven goals, 12 assists). Patric Hornqvist, meanwhile, ranks first on the team with eight goals.

At the other end of the ice, Joe Pavelski leads the Stars in goals (9) and points (19), including racking up two assists in last night's win. Behind him, John Klingberg has recorded 13 points (three goals, 10 assists), which places him tied for 11th among NHL defensemen in scoring.

"You want to get points and you want to win," Quenneville said. "We're in a competitive division. They know how to win and had a good response. We'll get the three-game set sorted out."

Honoring those that have served or are currently serving, the Panthers will also celebrate their annual Military Appreciation Night during the game. As of right now, a limited number of tickets have been donated for military members that wish to attend the matchup. These tickets will be handed out on a first come, first severed basis and can be acquired by heading to VetTix.org.

Additionally, Panthers players will be wearing special military-themed jerseys during tonight's warm-ups. Select jerseys will then be available for purchase at FLATeamShop.com following the game with a portion of the proceeds from those sales going directly to local veteran's charities.

TEAM RECORDS

FLA: 12-4-2, 26 PTS

DAL: 6-4-4, 16 PTS

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

PANTHERS NOTES

-- 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 six games. In 12 career meeting with Dallas, the 25-year-old center has lit the lamp six times.

-- 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 (25:04).

-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida in scoring with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). In 13 career games against the Stars, the 27-year-old winger has 14 points (five goals, nine assists).

-- Patric Hornqvist leads the Panthers in both goals (8) and power-play goals (5). In 33 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).

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

-- Radko Gudas ranks first in the NHL with 98 hits.

-- 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

Radko Gudas - Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle - Noah Juulsen

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratches: Owen Tippett, Markus Nutivaara, Gustav Forsling

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

Injured reserve: Noel Acciari (upper body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Feb. 25: F Mason Marchment and D Kevin Connauton were recalled from Florida's Taxi Squad; F Owen Tippett was loaned to Florida's Taxi Squad; F Grigori Denisenko was reassigned from Syracuse Crunch (AHL) to Florida's Taxi Squad.

- 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

- Military Appreciation Night.

- Student Rush Night

- $5 Beer Thursday

- 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: Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL

TV: FOX Sports Florida

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 560 WQAM (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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