“New guys are in,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “I talked to both those guys this morning. They just sat in the special teams meeting. They’ll get a briefing over the 5-on-5 stuff. It’s pretty similar to the way Pittsburgh plays, structurally. I think they’re going to fit right in. They’re excited to play and I know our guys are excited to see them out there.”
Brassard and Sheahan, a veteran forward duo with over 1,300 NHL games between them, were picked up from the Penguins on Friday along with three draft picks in exchange for forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. The picks are a second and two fourths in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft.
Boughner said he expects the team to benefit from that influx of experience.
“Sheahan’s going to be our fourth line center, but both guys are going to be incorporated in on special teams,” said Boughner, who added that the team is still working on whether Brassard will line up as a pivot or on the wing. “We’ve got to find that right chemistry. Things could switch after the first period, too. We’ve got to see how the lines are all working.
“I like the experience. I like that they’ve both gone on deep runs in the playoffs with teams. I think that’s going to help us. Both guys, like I said, are natural centermen, so that’s going to help in the faceoff circle. Sheahan’s a heck of a penalty killer; Brass is a power-play specialist… They’re going to bring experience to our lineup, which is a much-needed thing at this time of year.”
Brassard, 31, appeared in 40 games with the Penguins this season, recording 15 points (nine goals, six assists). The sixth-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, he’s registered 443 points (171 goals, 272 assists) over 756 career regular-season games with Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Columbus and the New York Rangers. Of those 443 points, 55 have come on the man advantage.
“I’m super excited to be here,” Brassard said. “Waking up and seeing the sun and everything, it was awesome. I feel like our team is really close here. We’re obviously in a big playoff push. Me and Riley, we’re going to try and come in here and try and help the team. We know how every game is really important and all the points are obviously huge.”
At 20-21-8, the Panthers currently find themselves 11 points behind Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. A veteran of 90 playoff games, Brassard feels he can help the team weather the stress of a tight run down the home stretch.
“I had some good playoff runs in the last five years. I think I played over 90 playoff games,” he said. “We have [33 games] games left. We know there’s a lot of teams – four or five teams – ahead of us. We’re going to have to catch everyone. Every night we’re going to have to bring our A-game. Every point is important. I’m just going to try and bring some compete-level on the ice and be there for the guys. I have confidence we can turn this around.”
As for Sheahan, the 27-year-old suited up in 49 games with the Penguins, accumulating nine points (seven goals, two assists). A big body at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, he’s tallied 139 points (56 goals, 83 assists) in 414 career regular-season games with Pittsburgh and Detroit.
“I’m definitely happy to be here,” Sheahan said. “It was a little bit of a whirlwind yesterday, but things settled down today. It was nice to get on the ice and put the gear on. The guys have been great… I think it’s a good place for me. I’m looking forward to getting started.”
With two new faces in the fold, the Panthers will look to get back on the right track after their three-game winning streak was snapped in a 4-1 loss to Nashville. In that game, Florida held a 1-0 lead after two periods before surrendering four answered goals over the final 20 minutes.
“The first period was pretty even, back and forth,” Boughner said of the loss. “I wasn’t unhappy with the way we played. I thought we were real good in the second. We did what we wanted to do. We brought a lead into the third period… I said before the game it was going to be a 60-minute game. We got to the 50-minute mark and didn’t get it done in the last 10.”
The Knights (29-20-4) also played last night, losing 5-2 in Carolina. Holding a firm grip on third place in the Pacific Division, Vegas doesn’t put up a ton of goals, but benefits from very strong goaltending and defense, currently allowing the fifth-fewest goals per game in the league (2.72).
Alex Tuch leads the Knights in points (40), while Jonathan Marchessault paces the club in goals (17).
“We’ve got to find a way to get a few more goals,” said Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, who leads the club in goals (23), power-play goals (10) and shots on goal (159). “Obviously we got a few good chances last night. I’ve got to capitalize on some of our power-play opportunities. We’ve got to score more than one goal if we’re going to win games.”
— Aleksander Barkov ranks second on the Panthers in points (47), including two goals and six assists over his last 11 games. The 23-year-old captain ranks tied for second in the NHL in takeaways (68), while his 23:00 of average ice time per game paces all forwards.
— Keith Yandle currently leads all Panthers defensemen in points (39) and assists (32), while his 25 power-play points rank fifth in the NHL and first among all defensemen. Since 2008-09, the 32-year-old’s 219 power-play points are the most among any blueliner in that span.
— Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 50 points (13 goals, 37 assists), including 33 (nine goals, 24 assists) over his last 29 games. The 25-year-old winger also leads the team in multi-point games this season with 17.
— Frank Vatrano has scored five goals and nine points over his last eight games. In Florida’s final game before the break, the 24-year-old posted a career-best four points (one goal, three assists) to help lead the team to a 6-2 win over San Jose on Jan. 21.
— Panthers center Vincent Trocheck has goals in two of his last three games.
— Florida has gone 28-for-30 (93.3 percent) on the penalty kill over the last 13 games.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME
James Reimer (9-8-5, 3.15 GAA, .897 SV%) vs. Marc-Andre Fleury (27-14-4, 2.49 GAA, .911 SV%)
With a Roberto Luongo start on Friday, Reimer will get the nod against the Knights on Saturday. The 30-year-old backup has gone 4-1-2 over his last seven decisions, including a season-high 37-save performance in a winning effort over Nashville during his last outing on Jan. 19. In his career against Vegas, he owns a 1-1-0 record with a .919 save percentage.
Like Reimer, Fleury also got the night off on Friday and is expected to get back to work tonight. The 34-year-old has lost three of his last four starts, posting a .909 save percentage in that span. Prior to that stretch, he had won 15 of his first 21 starts. In his career against the Panthers, he has gone 16-8-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and two shutouts.
PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)
Frank Vatrano – Aleksander Barkov – Evgenii Dadonov
Jonathan Huberdeau – Vincent Trocheck – Mike Hoffman
Derick Brassard – Henrik Borgstrom – Denis Malgin
Jayce Hawryluk – Riley Sheahan – Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle – Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson – Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar – Josh Brown
Scratches: Micheal Haley, Troy Brouwer, Ian McCoshen
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder)
– Feb. 1: F Jamie McGinn was loaned to Springfield (AHL)
– Feb. 1: The Panthers acquired F Derick Brassard, F Riley Sheahan, 2019 2nd-round pick and two 2019 4th-round picks from Pittsburgh in exchange for F Nick Bjugstad and F Jared McCann
– Jan. 31: F Jayce Hawryluk, D Josh Brown, D Ian McCoshen were recalled from Springfield (AHL)
– Jan. 31: D Bogdan Kiselevich was loaned to Springfield (AHL)
– 50/50 Raffle with guarantee pot of at least $25,000 (buy digital tickets here)
– Olli Jokinen’s “Legacy Saturday”
– Book Drive
– Celebrity Guest Chef
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
Spicy Chicken Sandwich for $14 at the “Chick it Out” stand outside section 105
HOW TO WATCH
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 7:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center – Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)