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The Boys are Back in Town

by Mike Lewis / Florida Panthers

After a ten-day, four-game road trip starting in Buffalo, New York and finishing in Glendale, Arizona the Panthers return to Sunrise with six of a possible eight points in hand.

“It was a good trip, I think the guys feel real good about themselves,” said Coach Gerard Gallant about his team’s success on the road.

“Now we just have to make sure we take care of business at home for the next couple of games.”

The Panthers rank ninth in the league in goals allowed and eighth in the league five-on-five, which can be contributed to steady defense along with solid goaltending from Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya.

Luongo made a bit of history on the road passing Patrick Roy for in career shutouts, earning his 67th after defeating the Buffalo Sabres (Oct. 17) and then passing former Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck in career wins after earning his 375th win against the Colorado Avalanche (Oct. 21). Luongo made 95 saves over the course of the road trip allowing only five goals on a combined 100 shots, only one of those goals were during even strength play.

“We’re playing good defensive hockey,” said Gallant.

“It’s all about scoring a few more goals, but when you’re a franchise and you want to win hockey games it’s about stopping goals before scoring goals and I think we’re doing a good job defending in our zone and not giving up as many scoring chances, and that’s where it starts. The goals are going to come. Right now we’re happy with the way we’re playing.”

The team chemistry has surfaced led by the example of the “Killer B’s” line consisting of Aleksander Barkov, Sean Bergenheim and Brad Boyes. After a stint as the top unit for Florida last season, the band has gotten back together, combining for eight points (5-3-8) in the last four games.

Brandon Pirri is another Panthers forward who enjoyed success on the road, quickly jumping into the lineup and hitting the ground running. Pirri rides a two-game goal scoring streak as he’s filled in well for an injured Dave Bolland. Playing in the Panthers’ last three games, Pirri has two goals, ten shots and a plus-two rating to show for it, playing a brand of strong two-way hockey.

“When I wasn’t in (the lineup), I was chomping at the bit to get in,” said Pirri.

“I knew I had to make an impression and be a consistent guy in this lineup. Building some chemistry with Jussi Jokinen and Tomas Fleischmann pretty quick makes things a lot easier.”

After falling in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 25, the Cats look for some redemption against the Desert Dogs when they come to town on Thursday Oct. 30. Thursday night will also be Hispanic Heritage Night at BB&T Center. Panthers netminder, Montoya is the first Cuban-American player in the NHL and feels that reaching out to the community in any way is “a privilege.”

“It’s awesome,” said Montoya about Hispanic Heritage Night.

“It shows how far the game has come. It’s all about spreading the game and that’s what we’re about. Bringing fans to the rink, getting them to enjoy the game that we grew up playing and the game that we love and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”

The puck drops between the Panthers and Coyotes at 7:30pm at BB&T Center.

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