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Cats & Coffee: Toronto Comes to Town

After a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Panthers wrapped up their season-long, eight-game homestand at 3-2-3. Of those five losses, four came by just one goal, with Florida struggling to hold onto the lead late in games despite rarely losing the momentum.

“I think we gave away some points against some teams we were up on,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “What’d we get, nine out of 16? I think that it could have easily been 12, 13, 14 out of 16, which would have been unbelievable. It didn’t happen. We’re still getting points in games; every point’s important. But at some point, yeah, we’ve got to close games out.”

With a chance to gain some ground in their push for a playoff spot – they currently sit seven points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand – Florida (11-11-6) will embark on a two-game road trip this week to St. Louis and Minnesota.

After that, the Panthers will return home to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

“I think we lost a lot of points in the last minutes,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said of the homestand. “It could have been better, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We just need to keep going forward, keep believing in each other and playing hard every game.”

With 27 points in 28 games, Barkov enters the week as one of five Panthers averaging better or near a point per game this season. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team with 34 points, while Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle sit in a three-way tie behind him with 28.

Here’s everything you need to know for the week ahead…

THE GAMES

Tuesday: at St. Louis Blues, 8:00 p.m.

The Panthers will begin their quick two-game road trip with a visit to the Enterprise Center on Tuesday for a matchup against the struggling Blues (10-14-4). St. Louis enters the week having lost eight of its last 11 games, a tough stretch that culminated with a 6-1 loss to Vancouver on Sunday. With Ryan O’Reilly (29 points) and Vladimir Tarasenko (20 points) as the only two players on the team with at least 20 points, the Blues offense currently sits at 22nd in the league, averaging 2.79 goals-per game. For the Panthers, look for Aaron Ekblad to do some damage in this matchup, as the 22-year-old defenseman has not only tallied seven goals over his last 14 games, but also has four goals and two assists in seven career contests against St. Louis.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Thursday: at Minnesota Wild, 8:00 p.m.

A winter road trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop in frigid Minnesota, where the Panthers will close out their two-game excursion away from home with a matchup against the Wild (15-12-2) on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota enters the week having lost five of its last six games, including a lopsided 7-2 loss in Edmonton on Friday. In the middle of the pack in most of the major statistical categories, the Wild’s best weapon has to be their penalty kill. The second-ranked unit in the league, it is currently working at 84.6 percent efficiency. That being said, they’ll certainly have their hands full trying to contain Florida’s power play, which has at least one goal in 18 of the last 19 games. Since Nov. 1, the Panthers have gone 25-for-72 (34.7 percent) with the extra attacker – the second-best success rate in the league during that span.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Saturday: Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:00 p.m.

After wrapping up their quick trip, the Panthers will return home for a single game against the Maple Leafs (20-9-1) at BB&T Center before hitting the road for another four-game swing. The Leafs enter the week sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division despite losing each of their last two games, including a 6-3 defeat in Boston on Saturday. Led by the dynamic trio of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, Toronto boasts the league’s second-best attack, scoring an average of 3.63 goals per game. For the Panthers, look for Aleksander Barkov to both stifle the opposing offense while also generating some of his own. The 23-year-old center not only ranks second in the NHL in takeaways (47), but has also tallied 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) over his last 17 games.

TV: FSF

Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

In-Arena Events: Bryan McCabe’s “Legacy Saturday,” 50-50 Raffle with guaranteed pot of at least $25,000, Santa Claus, Coca-Cola Bear

Tickets: HERE

MILESTONE WATCH

– Jonathan Huberdeau is two assists away from his 200th NHL assist.

– Keith Yandle is six points away from his 500th NHL point.

ABSTRACT ATHLETES

With Art Basel taking place just 45 minutes south in Miami, the Panthers decided to hold their own pop-up show at BB&T Center this past week, as a special exhibit featuring artists from The Abstract Athlete was opened up for fans in the concourse during Saturday night’s game.

 

Founded in 2016, The Abstract Athlete aims to bring both former athletes and military veterans together through art. By bridging these two worlds, co-founder Ron Johnson said he hopes to inspire both young artists and those with untapped potential to seek out their creativity.

“Different people do different things,” Johnson said of the project. “It’s that humanization of them that I think is kind of exciting. It makes you see them as normal. They’re not just these athletes. Part of what we’re trying to do is inspire people to be creative. We all started out as creative, but most people just stop. It’s beneficial to us. We exercise the body, and this exercising the brain.”

Although he’s still working on finding a hockey player for the project, Johnson has had a wide variety of athletes and veterans from different backgrounds lend their talents to the show, such as former Ohio State safety Percy King, who went back to art after his football career ended.

King said the biggest connection he’s made between sports and art is the amount of dedication needed for both.

“It’s easy for me to pursue my passion for creativity because I do know what it takes to pursue excellence,” he said. “When I played football, I was always in the weight room, always running extra. You’re competing with so many other guys who are always doing the same thing, so you’re always looking for little tips and tricks to get better, faster, quicker, stronger. It’s the same way with art. I’m always looking for different ways to become more efficient.”

To see King’s work or to learn more about The Abstract Athlete, click HERE.

 HOLIDAY PACK

Give the gift of Panthers hockey this holiday season.

On sale now, the Labatt Blue Holiday Pack is a perfectly customizable gift for that special hockey fan or fans your life. This limited-time offer features two tickets to three games, parking for each game, one hotdog and one Labatt Blue beer per ticket.

Of course, an alternate beverage will be provided for fans under 21.

With this online-only offer, you can choose from any home games from January through April, excluding Florida’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 18. Ticket packages start at $147 for upper goal zone, $225 for club ends and $279 for lower goal zone.

If you want to add some slap shots to your holiday shopping, tickets can be purchased HERE.

CATS CLIP OF THE WEEK

Have you visited our outdoor holiday rinks in Greenacres or Fort Lauderdale yet?

Click HERE to learn more and enjoy the video below to preview the fun!

Video: Palm Beach Holiday Rink

CATS IN THE COMMUNITY

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: Getting Funky at our Pucks & Pints Beerfest, pres. By @funkybuddhabrew! 🍻 pic.twitter.com/cCWeesnJ2q

Tweet from @FlaPanthersCARE: #FlaPanthers President @Caldwell16 addressed the crowd at today’s @UNCFSoFla Annual Leader���s Luncheon. pic.twitter.com/vpd7xB6Iol

Tweet from @FlaPanthers: Getting festive for the holidays at Joe DiMaggio Children���s Hospital with @NBjugstad72 and @mmatheson19 pic.twitter.com/rPl9Wc6bEx

COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)

The 2019 All-Star Game Fan Vote is now open! Let’s send some Panthers to San Jose!

Aleksander Barkov’s success in the faceoff circle has been key to Florida’s continued dominance on the power play this season.

Brian Biggane, who covered the Panthers for more than a decade for the Palm Beach Post, recounts the “Rat Trick” craze that followed the team all the way to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final and beyond.

“Hockey Fights Cancer” month hit home for MacKenzie Weegar.

In his latest blog entry, Vincent Trocheck discussed his road to recovery after the gruesome looking injury he suffered back in November.

Jonathan Huberdeau was named the NHL’s “Third Star of the Week” for the week ending Dec. 2.

— From “Huby Snacks” to life in South Florida, Jonathan Huberdeau talked about a wide variety of topics on the latest episode of the Territory Talk podcast.



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