After starting the season with two goals through the first two games of the Florida Panthers season, Anthony Duclair now finds himself back on the first line with Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
“To be honest, wherever I play any given night doesn’t matter to me,” Duclair said. “I just want to go out there and do my best to help the team win whether it’s with [Joe Thornton] and [Ryan Lomberg] or [Barkov] and [Verhaeghe], for me, my game doesn’t change. I just want to do my best.”
Duclair’s mindset speaks to the depth of this team — he doesn’t care where he plays because he knows he will have quality talent on his line no matter which one he is on.
“No matter where you play on this team, you’re surrounded by talent,” Duclair said. “There are always plays to be made. It doesn’t matter what line you’re playing on. For me, moving around doesn’t really matter. It’s just a question of going out there and working hard.”
Coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw from Duclair, seeing improvement right from the opening puck drop of the opener.
“I think Duke in camp was ordinary, but as soon as he started playing real games, all of the sudden you notice the speed and how dangerous he can be,” Quenneville said.
Duclair realizes he is being rewarded for his hard work — and strong play.
“It’s a fair way to play the game,” Duclair said. “You see some guys are feeling it some nights and some guys are not, and it’s up to the next guy to step up and fill in that gap.”
Duclair spent a lot of his time on that top line last season, spending 40.8% of his ice time alongside Barkov and Verhaeghe per Dobber Sports.
During the 241:43 that line played together, they had 16 goals for and eight goals against.
“We had some chemistry last year and we saw a little bit of that during the third period last game,” Duclair said. “It’s just a matter of putting it into a full game.”
Duclair’s speed also makes him a danger to draw penalties, which showed in Thursday’s opener against Pittsburgh. He was able to break out ahead of the defense and force Brian Dumoulin to hold him in order to prevent a breakaway opportunity.
“Even when the puck isn’t going in the back of the net, I just want to affect the game in other ways, Duclair said. “Using my legs, using my speed, creating some offense out of that and it builds confidence for the next line going up or draws the penalty and getting our powerplay unit out there is always key. So even if the puck isn’t going your way, you want to try to contribute in other ways.”
Duclair is a two-time 20 goal scorer, most recently hitting the mark in 2019-20 with 23 goals in 66 games with the Ottawa Senators. He followed that season up with 10 goals and 32 points in 43 games in his first season with the Panthers.
The Panthers, now at 2-0-0, face a crucial test on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning — and Duclair is ready to show up against the team’s biggest rival.
“Any time you play the defending cup champs, it’s gonna be a tough one and we know the rivalry with them,” Duclair said. “We saw it during the preseason, but now it’s the real deal, we play four times against them this year and it’s gonna be a battle each game. It’s gonna be a good test for us and we’re ready to go”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
- WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3