SUNRISE — With the Florida Panthers playing host to the St. Louis Blues around lunchtime on Saturday afternoon, Andrew Brunette certainly would like to see his team get off to a good start.
The Panthers have had a couple of fantastic finishes in their past two wins.
Their starts? Meh.
Saturday’s game time is set for 1 p.m. and Brunette, who played in quite a few of these matinees back in the day, warned that a fast start can be imperative if the Panthers want to end this four-game homestand with win No. 3.
“As a player, you like them when you get into the pattern of playing in them,’’ said Brunette, whose team rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit to beat Washington on Tuesday and beat Buffalo Thursday after trailing 3-0 after the first period.
“The first one is always a little awkward. I have been in places where, after Christmas, we were at 1 o’clock for the rest of the year. So you got used to that.
“The first one is tricky and the first 10 minutes can dictate those games early in the year when teams are not used to playing in them.”
Some players like coming to the rink in the morning and jumping right into the fray instead of getting in a light skate and waiting for a game hours later.
Hockey players are creatures of habit so with an early game, they may skip the breakfast dishes and jump right into their usual pregame meal.
Which can be weird.
“I am a big fan, I like waking up and getting right to work,” MacKenzie Weegar said.
“I’m obviously used to the 7 o’clock games, getting the routine and getting a nap in. Waking up, eating your pasta and chicken at 8 in the morning can be a little tough but I like getting here, getting into a game. It’s exciting to get going against St. Louis.”
The Blues are taking care of their Florida obligations in a hurry.
In a very odd scheduling twist, the Blues are playing the Sunshine State’s two teams all in a row.
St. Louis played host to the Lightning on Tuesday before traveling to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
The Blues will visit Florida on Saturday before welcoming the Panthers to St. Louis on Tuesday.
A lot of teams play the Panthers and Lightning in consecutive games but very rarely has a team played the two in four consecutive games.
Aside from last season’s Covid-related scheduling, this may be an NHL first.
“I don’t remember seeing that at all, ever. It’s not like they’re from around the corner,’’ Brunette said.
“They are always a real tough team to play. I played against them, coached against them a lot in the Central and they are a hard team to find any ice.
“They are champions for a reason and they have a lot of the same personnel. Another big test for us. It’ll be a great measuring stick for us.”
— The Blues were forced to use a Tampa-based emergency backup goalie Thursday after starter Jordan Binnington tested positive for Covid and salary cap concerns prevented St. Louis from calling up Charlie Lindgren until Friday.
Kyle Konin, a 23-year-old who lives in St. Petersburg and often works with the Lightning, suited up and was Ville Husso’s backup on Thursday.
Lindgren practiced in Sunrise on Friday so the Blues will not have to use Florida EBUG Zach Andrews unless something strange happens before Saturday’s game.
— The Panthers are using Saturday’s 1 p.m. start as a good time to have a “Kids Day” at the arena.
The NHL scheduled this for an afternoon start time so the game could be showcased in prime time in European markets. Per the NHL, today’s game will be aired in 30 countries and territories across Europe
The game will also be available nationwide on NHL Network.
— Aaron Ekblad, who scored twice Thursday night, missed Friday’s practice with what Brunette described as a maintenence day. He is expected to play Saturday.
— Sasha Barkov and Anthony Duclair did not practice Friday with Brunette saying they are both still considered “week to week.”
Brunette would not confirm whether he thought those players would be on the upcoming trip to St. Louis, Arizona and Colorado.
“Not sure,” he said. “We’ll figure it out by Sunday.”
Gus Forsling, who is eligible to come off the IR for Tuesday’s game in St. Louis, practiced again Friday.
— Fans are asked to bring new and unwrapped toys to the main entry level for the Panthers & NBC 6’s ‘Caravan of Joy’ Toy Drive.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
ST. LOUIS BLUES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida/NHL Network
- RADIO: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: St. Louis leads 23-12-0, 3 ties
- Odds via BetMGM: Florida favored (PL -1.5 +145) — (ML -165) — U/O 6
- Up next: Florida at St. Louis, Tuesday, 8
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 23 Carter Verhaeghe
98 Maxim Mamin // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
77 Frank Vatrano // 19 Joe Thornton // 74 Owen Tippett
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
62 Brandon Montour // 32 Lucas Carlsson
44 Kevin Connauton // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Matt Kiersted, Aleksi Heponiemi
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Olli Juolevi (AHL), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Mason Marchment (IR), Sasha Barkov (IR), Gus Forsling (IR), Anthony Duclair
PROJECTED ST. LOUIS BLUES LINEUP
10 Brayden Schenn // 90 Ryan O’Reilly // 25 Jordan Kyrou
89 Pavel Buchnevich // 18 Robert Thomas // 91 Vladimir Tarasenko
20 Brandon Saad // 70 Oskar Sundqvist // 49 Ivan Barbashev
54 Dakota Joshua // 22 Logan Brown // 46 Jake Walman
6 Marco Scandella // 55 Colton Parayko
47 Torey Krug // 77 Niko Mikkola
48 Scott Perunovich // 41 Robert Bortuzzo
35 Ville Husso
39 Charlie Lindgren