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FHN Today: Florida Panthers kick off Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight

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Florida panthers

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers get things going tonight when they open their first-round series against the Washington Capitals at FLA Live Arena.

The Panthers, as we know, have not won a Stanley Cup playoff round since 1996 but are favored to do so this time out.

Florida had a spirited practice at the IceDen on Monday morning with all the lines going back to the norm.

Check back later this morning for updates on whether Aaron Ekblad is “medically cleared” for tonight’s game.

UPDATE: Ekblad is back in the lineup.

Lines will be updated in the morning skate post coming up around 10:30 a.m.

With the Panthers anticipating the start of the playoffs for months now, does today sort of feel like Christmas morning?

”Exactly,’’ Andrew Brunette said.

“Excitement has been building up and we have been waiting. Now we’re here. I think we’re ready to go. This will be an unbelievable challenge against a really good hockey team.’’

PANTHERLAND

The Panthers were a depressed bunch when they packed up after losing to the Islanders back on Aug. 7, 2020 and took a quiet flight from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale.

Out of the ashes of that disastrous playoff qualifier in the 2020 Playoff Bubble rose the Panthers that y’all know and love.

Who would have thought that team would end up where they are now?

Well, they really aren’t that team.

Sam Reinhart has waited for this day to come for a long, long time.

And now it is here.

— The Panthers signed 2018 seventh-round pick Santtu Kinnunen to an entry-level contract on Monday.

— Even though the playoffs started last night, there is still time to get in to the FHN playoff Bracket Challenge pool with the chance to win a free FHN+ subscription for a year as well as a new Florida Panthers baseball cap.

Per the rules, you can sign up until the first Game 2 starts on Wednesday night. Pitter patter!

— I was on 7 SportsXtra Sunday night talking about the Panthers and Capitals.

Watch it HERE if you want to.

— Catch Monday’s post-practice reaction from Reinhart, MacKenzie Weegar and Andrew Brunette on the FloridaHockeyNow YouTube page.

If you like what you see on the YouTube page, please subscribe to it; we hit 1,000 subscribers last night!

Now we can start doing live shows and the like — as we did this morning from Sunrise.

For the FHN Morning Skate, we were joined by the one-and-only Bill Lindsay.

Great stuff, you’ll like.

We will have more today following morning skate in Sunrise as well as postgame tonight.

CAP CENTER

Before flying to Fort Lauderdale, the Washington Capitals had more good news when it comes to captain Alex Ovechkin playing in Game 1.

Ovechkin has been day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained against the Leafs on April 24.

He awkwardly into the boards and appeared to injure his arm; he then missed the final three games of the regular season.

Coach Peter Laviolette said that Ovechkin is making strides just in time for Tuesday.

So there you go.

— Radko Gudas says the Panthers are going to play Ovi the same as everyone else on the Caps. OK.

— For all of your Capitals coverage, head on over to WashingtonHockeyNow.Com … Sammi Silber has you covered.

AROUND THE NHL

Big news for the National Hockey Now network as Hall of Fame writer Dave Molinari joins the Pittsburgh crew.

Always wanted to call Dave a teammate and now I can. Doubt he will reciprocate the thought, though.

— Speaking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, they need a little more out of Evgeni Malkin if they want to beat the Rangers.

— Here is how some NHN scribes pick the playoffs. I have Florida winning in 5 as said on Sports Xtra the other night.

— Offseason plans for those Vegas Golden Knights.

— the Philadelphia Flyers ask their fans to “bear with us.”

— Jusse Saros is going to miss the start of the Nashville series with Colorado. Not good for the Preds.

— The Jets sign GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to a three-year extension.

— How do the Kings shut down the Edmonton big guns? Pray?

— Nazem Kadri misses another Colorado Avalanche practice.

NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

ROUND 1

FLORIDA PANTHERS V. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (Best of 7)

  • Game 1: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise  
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN2/ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560 (flagship); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM 219 (Streaming 932). 
  • Tickets: CLICK HERE
  • Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-230); Puck line (-1.5, +110); Over/Under 6.5 (-110/-110); Series (-340)

PANTHERS V. CAPITALS

  • Season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4);  @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
  • All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
  • Playoff history: None
  • First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington at Florida, Tuesday, 7:30 (ESPN2/BSF); Game 2: Washington at Florida, Thursday, 7:30 (TBS/BSF); Game 3: Florida at Washington, Saturday, 1 (ESPN/BSF); Game 4: Florida at Washington, May 9, 7 (TBS/BSF); Game 5*: Washington at Florida, May 11; Game 6*: Florida at Washington, May 13; Game 7: Washington at Florida, May 15. *If necessary 
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