CORAL SPRINGS — For two months, Florida Panthers forward Owen Tippett went without a goal.
It was not for lack of trying.
Tippett was getting to the right areas and getting his shots off, but seemingly hit the post every time.
“It’s uncharacteristic for him,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
“His whole career, his whole life, he’s been scoring. His shots are just not going in right now, and I think for him, it’s just about confidence. When you’re a scorer and you miss chances, you’re always getting down.
“But my communication with him is that [he’s] getting chances and that [he’s] doing the right things and your skill will take over once it goes in.”
His struggles prompted Florida to send Tippett down to the AHL on Jan. 14, where he spent the weekend playing with the Charlotte Checkers.
He was called back up to Florida after registering five points in a two-game stint with the Checkers.
“It was good to go down there and play and to get that confidence and to hold onto pucks a little longer,” Tippett said.
“Just to play and to get that confidence back was huge for me.”
Hearing his name float around in trade rumors has not helped much.
On Jan. 30, it was reported that the Panthers placed Tippett on the trade block, as they are slated to be serious buyers at the deadline.
“It’s each individual’s part of being a professional hockey player — you have to go through it,” Brunette said.
“I think as your teammates, you’re there for them, we’ve all been through it. We’ve all been part of the rumors. It’s an unfortunate part of our business, we have to move on because we love our players, we don’t want to lose anybody.”
While Florida potentially goes big game hunting at the deadline, the 22-year-old winger is just focused on staying positive and continuing to build his confidence.
“I think frustration can set in so easily, but I think when you’re getting chances, I think it’s easier to stay positive and to stay focused,” Tippett said.
“I think when you don’t get chances, that’s when you start to have to worry a bit, but I’ve been so close and I’m trying to stick with it and bear down on those chances.”
Tippett went 11 games without a point, from Nov. 20 to Jan. 1, and 15 games without a goal until his two-point performance on Jan. 20 against the Edmonton Oilers.
He went another five games without a point until Jan. 30 — but his play despite the lack of points earned him bigger opportunities.
When Patric Hornqvist and Maxim Mamin both went down with injuries, Tippett was given a chance to play in Florida’s top six.
That stint in the top six even included a short stint on a line with stars Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
While it only resulted in the goal against Columbus, Tippett has still caught Brunette’s eye during that stretch, as well as during practice this week.
“Tippett played in the top six last year and the beginning of this year and kind of got shuffled around a little bit,” Brunette said.
“I really like what he’s brought in practice this week. Ever since he came back from the AHL, he’s come back hungrier and with a lot more energy, he looks really ready to go right now and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can bring.”
With Hornqvist and Mamin — and even Noel Acciari, who missed the first half of this season with injury — all back in the fold after Florida’s long break, there will be more of a competition for those forward minutes.