The Panthers were back at practice Wednesday morning as they gear up for their first-round playoff series with the Lightning.
Did you know this is the first time the Panthers and Lightning will face one another in a postgame series?
If not, today’s daily NHL links will fill you in on the historical Sunshine State Showdown — or is it the I-75 Series?
Anyway, as of Wednesday night, the NHL still had not set the times and dates for the individual playoff series yet.
But when? Sounds like the opener will be Sunday night on NBCSN and on one of the Ballys.
While you wait, check out my latest story on the long and winding road Chris Driedger took to realize his NHL dream. Great stuff from both Driedger and Bill Zito. I mean, the Panthers were the only team to offer him a contract in 2018 — and it was only to be their fifth (fifth!) goalie in the minors.
He has come a long way since then.
Driedger and the Panthers will take Thursday off and then return to BB&T Center for practice Friday.
There’s plenty of stuff for you to read (and listen to) as we wait for the schedule to be released. Perhaps that comes today?
If you missed it, I wrote a piece on Florida coach Joel Quenneville being a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. Can you believe the second-winningest coach in NHL history has only been named Coach of the Year once? And 21 years ago?
Listen, this isn’t a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ and there are a lot of great candidates out there.
But after the Panthers did what they did this season with half of the team being new, I don’t see how Quenneville andZito don’t take the top honors in their respective positions.
Of course, we thought for sure Gerard Gallant was going to win the Jack Adams in 2016.
MORE PANTHERS STUFF
The success of the Panthers this season was watched by more South Floridians in 17 years. Per Bally Sports/Fox Florida, ratings were the best they have been since 2003-04.
— Quenneville was back on the airwaves Wednesday morning for his weekly chat with Joe Rose and Zach Krantz on WQAM-560. Coach Q talked about the road to the playoffs, what it’s going to take for the Panthers to beat the Lightning and a lot more.
— Florida TV voice Steve Goldstein goes ‘behind enemy lines’ to talk about the Panthers-Lightning series and budding rivalry.
— Staying local, Randy Moller also jumped on with our pals Hoch & Crowder on WQAM to talk about the, um, Panthers?
— If Victor Hedman isn’t 100 percent, the Lightning are at a disadvantage against the Panthers.
The Islanders are back in the playoffs and we’re sure the Panthers are glad they don’t have to play them. The Penguins do, however.
Pittsburgh is feeling pretty good about itself these days and the Islanders haven’t been playing all that great. Overlook Barry Trotz’s bunch at your own peril. Here are four key points and a prediction from Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
— The Flyers did not make the playoffs this year and GM Chuck Fletcher has his work cut out for himself.
— Speaking of the Flyers, coach Alain Vigneault just wants a normal season. Us as well, bud.
— Nathan McKinnon was out of the Avs’ lineup again Wednesday night. They say he’ll probably be ready for the playoffs. He had better.
— Jack Eichel has not requested a trade, Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams says. That doesn’t mean he will not.
— The Rangers’ housecleaning continues as David Quinn gets fired. Our old pal Jacques Martin is out as well.
SOUTH FLORIDA STUFF
The Miami Heat is on a roll heading into Thursday’s nationally-televised game against the visiting 76ers (so no Bally Sports).
— The Heat clinched a playoff spot Tuesday in Boston but is trying to move up the standings. On Wednesday, the Heat was tied with Atlanta and New York for the fourth seed in the east. The Heat owns the tie-breaker on the Knicks but not the Hawks.
— Oh, and the Heat will be wearing its Vice uniforms for the last time. Something new is in the air next year but it won’t be Vice. Heck of a run.
— Two of the Marlins’ injured players (Jazz Chisholm and Jorge Alfaro) are also in Jacksonville. They’re not with the Jags but the Jumbo Shrimp as they try and work their way back.