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Tkachuk, MacKinnon Red Hot as Florida Panthers Take On Avs

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Florida Panthers tkachuk
Florida Panthers' Matthew Tkachuk looks to the crowd after he was dunked during al All Star Skills Showcase, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The event is part of the NHL's All Star game events. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Matthew Tkachuk and Nathan MacKinnon have been the two best players in the NHL since the calendar turned to 2024.

And they will be on full display when the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche clash on Saturday night.

Tkachuk and MacKinnon each have 27 points in 15 games since Jan. 1, which is one more than Nikita Kucherov for the league lead.

MacKinnon has been dominant all season, scoring 35 goals and 85 points through 52 games this year.

He trails Kucherov, who has 87, for the league lead.

“He’s a freak,” said Evan Rodrigues, a former teammate of MacKinnon’s.

“There is nobody in the league like him that can be that powerful, that strong, that fast. You just try to contain him as much as you can.

“I think the biggest thing is not letting him build up speed in the neutral zone. If you can hit him early in the defensive zone and not let him get his crossovers underneath him, that will be a key to slowing him down, but there’s not much you can do.

“You do what you can to slow him down and try to keep him to the outside and try to make the game difficult on him.”

Tkachuk has turned it on after a slow start after coming off a fractured sternum suffered in the Stanley Cup Final.

Since Dec. 23, he has 12 goals and 32 points in 19 games, sharing the league-lead in points with MacKinnon and David Pastrnak.

If you’re wondering who leads the league in goals in that span, look no further than Tkachuk’s Panthers teammate, Sam Reinhart, who has 20.

Nobody else has more than 15.

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A lot of those goals have been thanks in part to Tkachuk feeding him passes from behind the net on the power play, too.

“He is an emotional leader for their team,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.

“He is heavily involved on the physical side of it, on the offensive side of it,  but there is a competitive turn-on when it comes to the intensity of his game and I feel like they have a lot of players like that. But I’m sure he leads the charge.

“This is a team that is highly competitive and yet skilled and hard in all of the right areas.”

ON DECK

COLORADO AVALANCHE @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Local Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-135); Puck line (-1.5, +165); Over/Under 6.5 (-200/+165)
  • Last Season: Split 1-1
  • This Season (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Colorado: Panthers 8, Avs 4 (Jan. 6). At Florida: Saturday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Colorado leads 27-13-5, 3 ties
  • Postseason Series: Colorado d. Florida 4-0, 1996 Stanley Cup Final
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Wednesday at Pittsburgh (TNT), 7:30 p.m.

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (32-15-4) LINES

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov// 13 Sam Reinhart

21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk

27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 17 Evan Rodrigues

12 Jonah Gadjovich // 82 Kevin Stenlund //94 Ryan Lomberg

42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad

77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour

91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson // 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Josh Mahura, Steven Lorentz, Will Lockwood

PROJECTED COLORADO AVALANCHE (32-16-4) LINEUP

27 Jonathan Drouin // 29 Nathan MacKinnon // 96 Mikko Rantanen

9 Zach Parise // 12  Ryan Johansen // 62 Artturi Lehkonen

28 Miles Wood // 20 Ross Colton // 25 Logan O’Connor

11 Andrew Cogliano // 22 Fredrik Olofsson // 94 Joel Kiviranta

7 Devon Toews // 8 Cale Makar

49 Samuel Girard // 42 Josh Manson

4 Bowen Byram // 3 Jack Johnson

40 Alexandar Georgiev

60 Justus Annunen

Scratched: Caleb Jones, Kurtis MacDermid, Sam Malinski

Colorado lines courtesy NHL.com

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