Perhaps the most paid attention to game in the NHL this weekend won’t be played in Montreal or Toronto but in Sunrise as the unbeaten Carolina Hurricanes visit the Florida Panthers.
Florida and Carolina, old pals from the Southeast Division days, are the only two teams left in the NHL who have yet to lose a game in regulation.
The Hurricanes come to town with an unblemished mark at 9-0 and will be trying to tie the league’s all-time record for most consecutive wins to start a season.
Florida only has the shootout loss in Boston on its ledger, the Panthers entering 9-0-1.
The Hurricanes and Panthers came into Friday ranked 1-2 in goal differential; Carolina is outscoring its opponents by 22 goals, the Panthers 19.
This one should be a doozy.
“We expect the same game. Last year against them was really intense,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “Carolina is a really good team and we know their record. We have to stick to our game. They are good defensively and we have to find a way to play in their zone and be good in our own as well.”
The two teams know each other quite well having played eight times last season in the temporary Central Division.
Carolina ended up winning the division by a point over the Panthers thereby thwarting the likelihood Florida would have won a first-round matchup against Nashville and moved on. Florida, of course, ended up meeting the Tampa Bay Lightning and losing in six.
The Hurricanes owned the Panthers last season, winning six of eight meetings (including a run of six consecutive wins) and got points in all eight games.
Vincent Trocheck, who was traded to the Hurricanes at the deadline in 2020, had some fun against his former teammates by scoring six goals with three assists in the eight games.
Carolina’s special teams were a big reason for its success against the Panthers last season.
The Hurricanes not only scored 10 power play goals in 30 chances across the eight games, but their penalty kill held the Panthers to just three goals in 35 tries.
Florida was flummoxed by Carolina’s aggressive style on the kill, something they saw Philadelphia use against them earlier this season.
“We are pretty familiar with them,” said interim coach Andrew Brunette, who runs Florida’s power play. “We know they are undefeated, they are a great team. I don’t know if anything changes … we know they are a really good measuring stick to see where we are right now. We got a big win (Thursday) although it wasn’t our cleanest game and this will be a bigger challenge.
“They close on you fast, they’re in your face. They play fast, are deep. They’re a really good team with great special teams. Again, it’s a great test to see where we’re at. We think we’re good; this will be a great test to see if we’re as good as we think we are.”
NEWS AND NOTES
A number of Panthers were expecting to break bread with Trocheck on Friday night after they weren’t able to mingle last season due to the Covid restrictions.
Trocheck joked last year the first time he got to say hello to his old teammates was through the glass as they were practicing.
Huberdeau said he was looking forward to seeing his close friend, but not exactly excited to play against him.
Trocheck seems to relish the idea of playing the Panthers — although all those who traded him are gone — and he is a world-class chirper. He knows exactly what to say to his old teammates when those friendships get tossed out the window come game time.
”He was one of my best friends when he was with the team, but there are no friends on the ice,” Huberdeau said. “You want to play tougher and you know how he gets on guys when he is on the ice. We saw it here and he does the same thing. He knows how to get under our skin. He’s just better at it.”
— The Panthers recalled goalie Christopher Gibson from Charlotte with Sergei Bobrovsky out with what the team is calling a minor upper body injury.
”It’s day-to-day, nothing long term,” Brunette said.
Spencer Knight is expected to start Saturday with Gibson backing up.
To make room on the roster, Florida put Sam Bennett on the IR retroactive to Saturday’s loss in Boston. That would allow Bennett to return Monday night at the earliest.
— Brunette said Bennett and Joe Thornton both skated on Friday and are day-to-day.
— The Panthers will not hold a morning skate on Saturday so we will have the updated lineups after Brunette speaks with the media later in the afternoon.
— Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour confirmed Saturday that Fredrik Anderson would be in goal and defenseman Brett Pesce will be out tonight.
It looks like Brendan Smith will get in and go with Ian Cole on Carolina’s third defensive pair.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560-AM
- Last season: Carolina won 6-0-2
- All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 69-44-11, 8 ties
- Odds via Bovada.lv: Florida (PL -1.5 +170) — (ML -140) — U/O 6
- Up next: Florida at NY Rangers, Monday, 7; Carolina at Tampa Bay, Tuesday, 7
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 13 Sam Reinhart // 74 Owen Tippett
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 98 Maxim Mamin
77 Frank Vatrano // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
62 Brandon Montour // 44 Kevin Connauton
30 Spencer Knight
31 Christopher Gibson
Scratched: Ryan Lomberg, Chase Priskie
Injured: Noel Acciari (IR), Olli Juolevi (IR), Joe Thornton (IR), Markus Nutivaara (IR), Sam Bennett (IR), Sergei Bobrovsky
PROJECTED CAROLINA HURRICANES LINEUP
48 Jordan Martinhook // 20 Sebastian Aho // 86 Teuvo Teravainen
37 Andrei Svechnikov // 16 Vincent Trocheck // 88 Martin Necas
82 Jesperi Kotkaniemi // 11 Jordan Staal // 71 Jesper Fast
78 Steven Lorentz // 18 Derek Stepan // XX Seth Jarvis
74 Jaccob Slavin // 25 Ethan Bear
76 Brady Skjei // 77 Tony DeAngelo
28 Ian Cole // 7 Brendan Smith
31 Frederik Andersen
32 Antti Raanta