SUNRISE — For the first time since Mar. 10, the Florida Panthers will take the ice in front of their own fans at FLA Live Arena when they take on the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
It has been a crowd they have sorely missed.
“Our fans have been awesome all year, they have been supporting us and have helped us out in quite a few games this year in comeback wins,” Anthony Duclair said.
“It’s no different tonight, we’re going to need them. I’m just happy to be back home playing in front of them.”
Florida has had quite the easy time winning at home, holding the second-best home-ice record in the league at 26-6-0.
Despite what their home record, and Montreal’s record of 18-37-11, may say, it is a team the Panthers cannot take lightly.
The Canadiens took the Panthers to the brink in their meeting last Thursday, taking an early lead 29 seconds in and matching them goal-for-goal early on.
Florida broke away with goals from Duclair and Sam Reinhart to take a 4-2 lead and held on after Paul Byron drew the score within a goal late in the third period.
“It’s going to be a hard game like last time, we don’t expect anything different,” Duclair said.
“They’re a young team with a lot of intensity and they are going to make you battle for a lot of loose pucks, so we have to be ready right off the get-go.”
Interim head coach Martin St. Louis figures to be a big part of the team’s intensity.
Since he was hired on Feb. 9, the Canadiens have a 10-7-4 record, surpassing the team’s win total at the time of his hire after less than two months.
Joe Thornton, who shared a locker room with St. Louis on numerous Canada teams, is not at all surprised by his success.
“He’s just a super guy and I’m sure the guys over there love him,” Thornton said.
“He loves hockey and brings a lot of energy, so I’m very pleased that he’s doing so well there in Montreal.”
Another big benefactor of St. Louis’ arrival has been Cole Caufield, who leads all rookies in goals (13) and points (25) since the coaching change.
“I think he’s going to be really good for our team,” Caufield told Montreal Hockey Now. “I’m really excited; I grew up wearing 26 because of him and it’s crazy he’s our coach. Every time he speaks, I just want to listen and soak it all in.”
Per Montreal Hockey Now, Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes wants to take the interim tag off of St. Louis, so this will very well not be the last time the Panthers square off with the Tampa Bay legend.
Morning Skate Updates
- Anton Lundell skated with the team for the first time since leaving March 7’s game against Buffalo with a lower-body injury and picking up an illness shortly thereafter. He will not play tonight, however. Per interim coach Andrew Brunette, if he does not return Thursday, he will likely be slated for a return over the weekend.
- Ben Chiarot made it back to South Florida with the team after the conclusion of the Canadian road trip. His work visa issues have been cleared.
- Patric Hornqvist will miss his second straight game with a nagging injury. He skated ahead of morning skate before the rest of the team took the ice and Brunnete said that he is not ready yet.
- Sergei Bobrovsky will start in net for the Panthers.
- Joe Thornton draws into the lineup for Maxim Mamin, the rest of the lines remain the same.
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
MONTREAL CANADIENS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 50-48, 6 ties
- Season series — Florida leads 2-0: @Florida 5, Montreal 2 (Jan. 1); Florida 4, @Montreal 3 (March 24)