Good morning and welcome to “Cats & Coffee,” a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
After a short break for the holidays, the Florida Panthers are back in action this week, continuing their current homestand with back-to-back contests against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens before heading to Dallas for a New Year’s Eve showdown against the Stars.
Coming off a 4-3 shootout loss the Detroit Red Wings in their final game before the break, the Panthers (15-14-6) know that they’ll need to do a better job of holding onto leads in the coming weeks and months if they hope to make a return trip to the postseason.
“We’ve got to work on it,” Panthers coach Tom Rowe said after Friday’s shootout loss to Detroit. “It’s something we have to review after Christmas and get the details. We’re getting puck focused and we’re not picking up the guys coming in from their bench or coming in from behind.”
Still, the Panthers enter the week just four points behind the Boston Bruins for third place in a wide-open Atlantic Division with plenty of time left to turn things around.
“We’ve got a couple days to get away,” defenseman Keith Yandle said before the break. “It would have been nice to go in with a win. It’s a tough one to sleep on tonight, but we’ll have a good holiday.”
Here’s everything you need to know for the week ahead…
Wednesday: Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:00 p.m.
The Panthers will be looking to avenge two early-season losses when they welcome the Maple Leafs (14-12-7) to BB&T Center on Wednesday. Toronto has come away victorious in both of its previous meetings with the Panthers this season, winning those games by a combined score of 9-3, but enters this matchup having lost seven of its last 11 games. In this contest, look for Jonathan Marchessault to spark Florida’s offense, as the 26-year-old forward has tallied three goals in six career games against the Maple Leafs.
Panthers vs. Maple Leafs this season: 0-2-0
TV: FSF, TSN
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward); 760 WEFL (Palm Beaches)
Thursday: Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers will need to be on top of their game when they welcome the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens (21-9-4) to the BB&T Center on Thursday. Montreal, which has lost four of its last six games, currently boasts the league’s fourth-ranked defense (2.21 goals allowed per game) and fifth-ranked offense (3.03 goals scored per game). In this contest, look for Aleksander Barkov to be the one to crack Montreal’s stalwart defense, as the 21-year-old center has 15 points (10-5-15) in 13 career games against the Canadiens.
Panthers vs. Canadiens this season: 1-0-0
Radio: English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast); Spanish: 990 WMYM (Dade/Broward); 760 WEFL (Palm Beaches)
Saturday: at Dallas Stars, 8:00 p.m.
The Panthers will look to end 2016 on a high note when they travel to the American Airlines Center for a New Year’s Eve matchup against the Stars (14-14-7) on Saturday. The Panthers, who owned a 1-1-0 record against Dallas last season, should expect to light the lamp early and often in this contest, as the Stars currently own the league’s 26th-ranked defense (3.03 goals allowed per game) and 27th-ranked penalty kill (77.3 percent). In his first game against his former team, look for defenseman Jason Demers, who suited up for the Stars from 2014-16, to have a big impact for the Panthers on both ends of the ice.
Panthers vs. Stars this season 0-0-0
English: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beaches); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
– Panthers forward Shawn Thornton is one point shy of 100 for his career.
– Panthers center Vincent Trocheck is one point shy of 100 for his career.
– Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen is three assists shy of 350 for his career.
– Panthers forward Reilly Smith is three assists shy of 100 for his career.
– Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo needs one victory to surpass Terry Sawchuk for sole possession of fifth-place on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
– Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr needs two assists to surpass Paul Coffey for sole possession of fourth place on the NHL’s all-time assists list.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“We’ve got to protect the lead. We had a two-goal lead and then we started to sit back and kind of prevent them from scoring instead of playing our game. That’s when you get in trouble, playing in the D-zone a little bit too much.” — Vincent Trocheck on Florida’s inability to hold onto the lead in Friday’s loss to Detroit.
“At the time, you give yourself a pretty good cushion. You’re up, I think, three goals it would have been. To look back it now, you almost think we wouldn’t have to have gone to overtime. It’s disappointing, especially when you see it. There’s plays where the goalie is interfered with, but (Nick Bjugstad) did a great job of not touching the goalie. I’m just baffled by how it’s not a goal.” — Keith Yandle on the goaltender interference call that cost the Panthers a key goal in Friday’s loss to Detroit.
FIRST STAR OF THE WEEK
Jaromir Jagr was named the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday.
With five assists in his last three games, the 44-year-old Jagr was able to move into sole possession of second place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,889 points, passing Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier.
In honor of this milestone, the Panthers will be hosting a special “Jaromir Jagr Night” on Friday, Jan. 6 vs. Nashville Predators. The game will have Jagr-themed game presentation elements and the first 10,000 fans through the doors of the BB&T Center will receive a commemorative Jagr T-shirt.
“It will be an exciting evening for our fans at the BB&T Center as we all come together to celebrate Jaromir and his contributions to the sport of hockey,” said Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko.
Ticket offers for the evening are themed around Jagr’s 1,888th point and jersey number. Offers include an $18.88 upper goal zone offer and a $68.00 sideline and sideline premier offer that includes a $15 food and beverage credit.
The Jagr ticket offers can be purchased by clicking here.
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
– In an effort to brighten the day of patients and staff at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Panthers players donned festive, and somewhat comical, costumes, which included Nick Bjugstadstepping into a dress to play the role of Mrs. Claus, opposite Shawn Thornton’s Santa.
“We got some laughs out of people,” Bjugstad said. “Anything we can do to cheer these guys up. They’re going through hard times. Everyone is affected by cancer, whether it be a family member or a friend. It’s definitely fun coming here and seeing some smiles.”
“It’s something that you’re proud to be a part of,” Demers writes. “It’s a part of history. It’s something that when you’re old and out of hockey that you can look back on say that you witnessed and that you knew those guys personally.”
– Jaromir Jagr passed Mark Messier to claim sole possession of second place on the NHL’s all-time scoring listlast week, earning the 1,888th point of his illustrious career with a rather unconventional assist off his backside.
“I was dreaming about something else,” Jagr said. “I thought I was going to score a beautiful goal, beautiful assist.”
– There’s still time to take advantage of the Panthers’holiday ticket offer!