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Thursday NHL preview: Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs


Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov notched his career first hat trick against the Leafs last Saturday in Florida. He’s considered one of the best two-way players in the game and can score with the best of them: eight goals and six assists in last 11 games. He also has yet to take a penalty this season. Leafs centre Auston Matthews has seven goals and five assists in nine games since returning from a shoulder injury.


The Panthers scored three goals in a 2:44 span of the third period for a 5-2 win in Buffalo on Tuesday. Prior to that, they had been outscored 42-23 in third periods, the worst differential in the NHL … Florida has several key players on the injury shelf: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Vincent Trocheck (ankle), Derek MacKenzie (shoulder) and Jamie McGinn (back) … The Panthers’ penalty kill has been awesome, successful on 29 of the last 32 chances since Nov. 24 — the second-best rate in the NHL over that span … Troy Brouwer has been an unsung hero for Florida. The 33-year-old forward had the final two years of his contract bought out in Calgary before signing a one-year deal with the Panthers. He’s up to seven goals, one more than all of last season, and is a key part of the penalty-killing unit … Evgenii Dadonov leads the Panthers in goals with 16, while Jonathan Huberdeau has five goals and 16 assists in his last 12 games.


Home to the New York Rangers on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Mark Zwolinski is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @markzwol

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