SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers held a spirited practice at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday morning, a day after suffering a rare loss on home ice.
The Panthers have only lost four games in Sunrise this season, so while they weren’t feeling blue or anything like that, they certainly had a purpose in their work.
“I don’t think anyone is happy and I thought they came in today ready to show that they weren’t too happy with themselves,” coach Andrew Brunette said. “They practiced hard and competed hard. It was good to see their response.”
Florida lost to the Nashville Predators 6-4 on Tuesday night, dropping a game to a team which had lost four consecutive games and threw in their backup goalie to try and shake things up against one of the best teams in the entire league.
Well, it worked.
On Thursday, Florida will face a suddenly-hot Columbus squad which is riding the hot streak of sniper Patrik Laine (12 goals, 20 points) with wins in eight of its past 10 games.
The Blue Jackets have also been spanked by the Panthers in the past two outings — losing 9-2 here on their previous visit — so the Panthers know they’ll be getting a team playing its best while also looking for a little payback.
Per FanDuel, the Panthers are heavy favorites tonight, with the money line at -430. That means if you bet the Panthers to straight up win, it will cost $430 to win $100.
Since last season, the Panthers have won nine of 10 against the Blue Jackets and have a point in all of those games. Florida has won the past eight in the series.
”They are on a roll right now,” Brunette said. “They have been winning a lot of games here of late and are a dangerous team. I am sure they want some revenge for the last time they were in here. We have to be ready.”
Brunette was asked about who would start in net for the Panthers on Thursday night — with the assumption Sergei Bobrovsky goes against the Blue Jackets.
Interestingly enough, Brunette would not confirm that.
“I don’t know,” Brunette said. “We’ll see.”
UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, he announced that Jonas Johansson would make his Florida debut against the Blue Jackets citing Bobrovsky’s heavy workload — and Florida’s 12:30 start Saturday against Edmonton.
Bobrovsky, who left Columbus for Florida in 2019, has won his past six starts against the Blue Jackets and is 8-1-2 against Columbus since leaving central Ohio.
Johansson has not played a minute for the Panthers since being claimed off waivers from Colorado in December.
Brunette also said that Frank Vatrano would be back in the lineup and would replace Ryan Lomberg.
As for Columbus, it is down to its No. 3 and 4 goalies with J-F Berube stepping in admirably what with both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo out with lower body injuries.
Berube has won his past two starts — he made 39 saves Tuesday in an overtime win against the Leafs — after not making an appearance in the NHL since 2018.
Jet Greaves, 20, was playing for the Cleveland Monsters on an AHL deal but got a three-year entry level contract to come up and backup Berube in Columbus.
— The Panthers practiced without defenseman Radko Gudas on Wednesday with Brunette saying it was simply a maintenance day.
It may also have been a reward: Gudas scored his first goal of the season in the second period Tuesday giving Florida a 2-1 lead.
“That as a beauty,” Brunette said. “Great goal. I was so happy for him. You talk about with him, how he is so coachable; he does everything his teammates want, everything his coaches want. He has just been a joy to be around. To see his growth in the offensive side of the game — I know he hasn’t been rewarded for it — his instincts are putting him in the right place. It was nice to see one finally go in for him.”
Said Gudas: “I would have loved to have gotten a ‘W’ to go with the goal, but I am willing to score more if we can get the victory next time. I liked the energy of everyone so that was good for me. I have had a few opportunities and one finally one went in. Hopefully more are coming.”
Gudas was on the ice Thursday morning and will return to the lineup.
— Columbus announced Thursday that All-Star defenseman Zach Werenski did not make the trip south and will miss the Jackets’ next two games.
Parkland’s Andrew Peeke will remain on the Jackets’ top defensive pairing with Vladislav Gavrikov sliding up to join him.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Streaming only: Hulu/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Fanduel’s NHL odds — Florida favored: Puck line (-2.5, -105); Money line (-430); Over/Under 7 (+100/-122)
- Last season: Florida won 7-0-1
- This season — Florida leads 2-0: @Florida 9, Columbus 2 (Jan. 15); Florida 8, @Columbus 4 (Jan. 31)
- All-time regular season series: Columbus leads 24-15-4
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 98 Maxim Mamin
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
77 Frank Vatrano // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
4 Olli Juolevi // 62 Brandon Montour
35 Jonas Johansson
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Noel Acciari, Ryan Lomberg, Lucas Carlsson
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Joe Thornton (IR)
Assigned to Charlotte: Owen Tippett
PROJECTED COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS LINEUP
29 Patrik Laine // 38 Boone Jenner // 93 Jakub Voracek
14 Gustav Nyquist // 7 Sean Kuraly // 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
16 Max Domi //34 Cole Sillinger // 59 Yegor Chinakhov
23 Brendan Gaunce // 96 Jack Roslovic // 17 Justin Danforth
44 Vladislav Gavrikov // 2 Andrew Peeke
46 Dean Kukan // 27 Adam Boqvist
5 Gavin Bayreuther // 53 Gabriel Carlsson
30 J-F Berube
60 Jet Greaves
Injured: Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, Zach Werenski
Blue Jackets lineup courtesy Columbus Dispatch.com