In their past two games, the Florida Panthers took out two of the top teams in the NHL (not named the Florida Panthers) with wins in Carolina and Minnesota.
It was a heck of a way to resume their season following a 15-day break in action.
Sunday, one would think there could be a bit of a letdown as the Panthers visit Chicago for a matinee date with a team looking toward the future.
The Blackhawks have lost three of their first five games coming out of the gates here including their past two.
Chicago, a team Florida took six of eight from last season, came into the weekend 13 points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks will not be confused with the Hurricanes or Wild.
“We can’t take any team lightly,” said Noel Acciari, who returned to the lineup on Friday night. “We have a target on our back and we have to bring our A-Game every night. We want to end the road trip off right. A big six points would be huge for us.”
The Panthers have put many of their big games behind them. The heavy lifting, for the most part, has been done.
According to PowerRankingsGuru.com, the Panthers have played the eighth-toughest schedule in the NHL to date.
The rest of the way should be much easier.
Starting Sunday, the Panthers have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the league. There are some big games left, sure.
Florida still has three games left against Atlantic-challenger Toronto and one each against Boston and Tampa Bay. There is another trip west still to come and some other high-profile games remaining.
But a lot of Florida’s final 33 games are going to be like Sunday — and the Panthers would like to avoid being a team’s upset special.
”It’s good to feel good about (Friday) and in beating a really good Carolina team the other night,’’ coach Brunette said. “We have some good road victories here. But we’re not satisfied. We want to keep it rolling here and not just be OK on the road. We want to be great on the road.”
— The Panthers will face Henrik Borgstrom for the first time since he was traded to the Blackhawks in the Brett Connolly deal last season.
Borgstrom was Florida’s first-round pick in 2016 and ended up playing in 58 games with Florida. He appeared to grow disillusioned with his role within the organization and remained in Finland during the 2021 NHL season.
He has four goals and seven points in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
- When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
- Where: United Center, Chicago
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Fanduel’s NHL odds — Florida favored: Puck line (-1.5, +106); Money line (-245); Over/Under 6.5 (+100/-122)
- Last season: Florida won 6-2
- All-time regular season series: Chicago leads 27-15-4, 3 ties
- This season: First meeting
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 70 Patric Hornqvist
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 55 Noel Acciari
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
32 Lucas Carlsson // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
35 Jonas Johansson
Scratched: Owen Tippett, Frank Vatrano, Olli Juolevi
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Maxim Mamin (IR), Chase Priskie (IR), Joe Thornton (IR)
PROJECTED CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS LINEUP
38 Brandon Hagel // 27 Lucas Reichel // 88 Patrick Kane
12 Alex DeBrincat // 17 Dylan Strome // 8 Dominik Kubalik
23 Philipp Kurashev // 77 Kirby Dach // 24 Sam Lafferty
13 Henrik Borgstrom // 22 Ryan Carpenter // 58 MacKenzie Enstwistle
6 Jake McCabe // 5 Connor Murphy
44 Calvin de Haan // 4 Seth Jones
82 Caleb Jones // 75 Alec Regula
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
40 Arvid Soderblom