As much as NHL teams enjoy going to places like Fort Lauderdale — and, in this case, Nashville — sometimes the trip is quick. The Florida Panthers are on a business trip to one of the great stops this league has to offer.
The Panthers flew to Tennessee not long after they beat Buffalo 4-3 in a closely-contested game and will play a Predators team fighting not for playoff position, but a berth in the postseason.
While the Panthers clinched a postseason berth seemingly around Halloween, the Predators are still trying to get there.
When Florida goes into Bridgestone Arena this evening, it will be facing a team holding the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference — and holding a narrow edge on teams like Vegas and Vancouver.
The Panthers are going to get a battle tonight.
“Something we have talked to our team about is embracing the high-stakes environment,’’ Nashville coach John Hynes said Saturday morning. “We need to be at our best when the stakes are the highest. This is another opportunity to prove that tonight, embrace this style of game. You’ll have to fight for every inch.’’
The Panthers got off to another slow start Friday against the Sabres, muddling their way through a first period they ended up trailing 3-1 at the end of.
Florida dominated play for the remainder of the night with Sam Bennett getting the game-winner with 35.6 seconds remaining.
Nashville has won seven of eight at home and if the Panthers bring that same energy in the first period Saturday, they may not be able to recover.
“We didn’t really deviate from the plan,’’ Brunette said of Friday’s first period. “We stayed within our structure and stayed within ourselves, we didn’t go outside and be individual. As a group we kind of rallied and we didn’t change too much. We felt that there is self-belief that if we do these things, we are going to come back and score goals.
“I think there is a good understanding in our group and that speaks to the leadership of the guys in there. They understand that and it is a good thing to have.”
— The Charlotte Checkers, the AHL team Florida shares with the Seattle Kraken, was the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a spot in the playoffs as they beat the Hartford Wolf Pack 3-2.
— Friday’s win over Buffalo was Florida’s 50th of the season which is tied with Colorado for most victories in the league.
— Florida’s eight multi-goal comeback wins are the most in one season in club history.
— Sasha Barkov had two primary assists and has multiple points in six straight games which ties Jonathan Huberdeau for second-longest in Florida history. Pavel Bure had seven multi-point games in 2000-01.
— Sam Bennett scored the game-winning goal Friday — and it was his 100th NHL goal and 200th NHL point. He leads the Panthers with seven game-winning goals this season.
— Huberdeau extended his point streak to 10 games (7-12, 19) giving him two double-digit point streaks this season.
— Sam Reinhart scored his team-leading 13th power-play goal of the season.
— Claude Giroux posted his second straight multi-point game (1-1, 2) as he has 11 points off two goals in nine games with the Panthers.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NASHVILLE PREDATORS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Sun
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-130); Puck line (-1.5, +170); Over/Under 7 (-110/-110)
- Last season: Florida won 5-2-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 20-12-6, 3 ties
- Season series — Nashville leads 1-0: Nashville 6, @Florida 4 (Feb 22)
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
42 Gus Forsling // 52 MacKenzie Weegar
8 Ben Chiarot // 7 Radko Gudas
32 Lucas Carlsson // 62 Brandon Montour
30 Spencer Knight
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Maxim Mamin, Joe Thornton, Petteri Lindbohm, Robert Hagg
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Aaron Ekblad (LTIR), Noel Acciari (UBI)
PROJECTED NASHVILLE PREDATORS LINEUP
9 Filip Forsberg // 92 Ryan Johansen // 26 Philip Tomasino
28 Eeli Tolvanen // 64 Mikael Granlund // 95 Matt Duchene
13 Yakov Trenin // 10 Colton Sissons // 84 Tanner Jeannot
21 Nick Cousins // 11 Luke Kunin // 24 Matt Luff
59 Roman Josi // 57 Dante Fabbro
14 Mattias Ekholm // 45 Alexandre Carrier
90 Mark Borowiecki // 3 Jeremy Lauzon
74 Juuse Saros
33 David Rittich