“I’m a guy that likes to shoot the puck first,” said McCann, who has four goals and four assists in 21 games this season. “I’ve been getting some pretty good opportunities in the slot, and luckily they’ve been going in for me… We’re just trying different looks to create more offense.”
This will be McCann’s second time starting in that spot since the team’s regular second-line pivot, Vincent Trocheck, was sidelined for an indefinite period of time with a fractured ankle. In the four games since that injury, Nick Bjugstad centered the second line in all but one of them.
As of right now, Panthers coach Bob Boughner said he’s still looking for a steady replacement.
“With Troch out, we’ve had a lot of different combinations here,” Boughner said. “I’d be lying if I said we’ve found the exact combinations that we’re set in. I think it’s going to a revolving door a little bit here in the next little while. It’s not a bad thing. Guys play better with certain players and feel better on certain nights. We’ve just got to make that right call.”
McCann, who will be flanked by Jonathan Huberdeau and Frank Vatrano, said the bump from the third to second line is a big one, and that some adjustments will certainly need to be made.
“I feel like it’s kind of a big jump,” McCann said. “It takes more of a skilled centerman to fill that role. Obviously to play with Huby and Frankie, it’s going to be different. I feel like if I get a couple shifts under my belt, I’ll feel comfortable and feel good and make plays.
“Coming up from the third line, sometimes you’ve just got to simplify your game, especially playing against the other team’s third line. I feel like tonight I’m going to have change a little bit the way I play, which is probably for the best.”
McCann was one of four different Panthers to light the lamp during the team’s 4-3 overtime win over New Jersey on Monday to end a three-game losing streak. In the win, Huberdeau scored with 1:29 left in regulation to force overtime, where Mike Hoffman one-timed the game-winner.
Hoffman said he believes the emotions from that win can bleed over into tonight’s matchup.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Hoffman, who leads the team in goals (12) and points (23). “It’s definitely a more-emotional way to come back. To score within the last minutes and then win it in overtime always makes it more exciting. At the end of the day, two points are two points, and that’s got to be our main focus for tonight.”
At 9-9-4, the Panthers are just five points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand.
“We’re in a good spot,” Boughner said. “Obviously we’d like to be higher, we’d like to have more wins. But it is what it is. We’re dealing with some injuries right now. I like the way we’ve played at home the last couple games. I think that if we continue that, by the end of this stand I’ll like where we’ll be.”
The Ducks (11-10-5) have won three of their last four games, including a 3-1 victory in Tampa on Tuesday. Entering tonight’s contest with the league’s 30th-ranked offense (2.19 goals per game), they don’t have a single player in their lineup with more than six goals or 17 points.
A physical team, Anaheim ranks 11th in the league in hits (552) and second in blocked shots (412).
“It’s a bit of a different matchup than what we’ve seen lately,” Boughner said. “I look at their centermen up the middle, which is obviously their strength. They’re good in the faceoff circle, they’re a physical team… Those games are good to play in. You’ve got to be ready.”
— The NHL’s active ironman, Keith Yandle is expected to compete in his 738th consecutive game tonight, breaking a tie with Jay Bouwmeester for sole possession of sixth place on the NHL’s all-time list. The 32-year-old also leads all Panthers defensemen in points (21) and assists (17).
— Since Nov. 1, the Panthers own the second-ranked power play in the league, going 16-for-46 (35.1 percent) with the man advantage during that span. Entering tonight’s matchup, they have at least one power play goal in 12 of their last 13 contests.
— Jonathan Huberdeau ranks second on the Panthers in points (22) and first in assists (17). Entering tonight’s matchup, the 25-year-old winger has posted 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) over his last 12 games.
— Panthers Captain Aleksander Barkov has registered 11 points (six goals, five assists) over his last 11 games. An elite two-way center, the 23-year-old currently leads the league with 41 takeaways – eight more than the next-highest skater – while not registering a single penalty.
— Florida owns a 4-1-0 record over its last five home games against Anaheim.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
James Reimer (4-5-2, 3.39 GAA, .895 SV%) vs. John Gibson (8-8-4, 2.57 GAA, .926 SV%)
With Roberto Luongo still sidelined, Reimer will make his fourth straight start for the Panthers. In his last outing, the 30-year-old backup stopped 29 of 32 shots during Monday’s 4-3 overtime win over New Jersey. In three career starts against the Ducks, he has gone a perfect 3-0-0 thanks to a stellar 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
Given that Ryan Miller started on Tuesday in Tampa, Gibson will more than likely get the nod for Anaheim against the Panthers. The 25-year-old has lost three of his last five starts, including a 4-3 loss in Nashville on Sunday in which he surrendered four goals on 32 shots. Against Florida, he owns a 1-3-0 record with a 3.81 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.
Evgenii Dadonov – Aleksander Barkov – Mike Hoffman
Jonathan Huberdeau – Jared McCann – Frank Vatrano
Dryden Hunt – Nick Bjugstad – Troy Brouwer
Micheal Haley – Juho Lammikko – Colton Sceviour
Mike Matheson – Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle – Mark Pysyk
Bogdan Kiselevich – MacKenzie Weegar
Scratches: Alexander Petrovic, Denis Malgin (upper-body), Roberto Luongo (lower-body)
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back), Vincent Trocheck (ankle)
– Nov. 24: G Michael Hutchinson was recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– Nov. 22: C Vincent Trocheck was placed on the Injured Reserve list.
– Nov. 22: F Maxim Mamin was loaned to CSKA Moscow (KHL).
– Nov. 21: F Denis Malgin was recalled from Springfield (AHL).
– 50/50 Raffle (digital tickets HERE)
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
– Buffalo Chicken Pizza for $11 outside sections 108, 129 and 328.
HOW TO WATCH
When: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 7:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center – Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida (Alternate Channels Below)
AT&T HD: 1721
Dish HD: 9519
Dish Hopper: 412-37
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)