SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers spent a big chunk of Monday’s practice at FLA Live Arena working on something they were so good at last season.
Coach Paul Maurice had the Panthers working on a lot of transition drills, usually having seven skaters on working from one end of the ice to the other shooting on their two goalies.
There was no work on defensive structure or setting up in the offensive zone.
Just rush up the ice and get in position to shoot.
”Our defense got up the ice (Sunday), Brandon Montour especially but Radko Gudas was doing it as well,” Maurice said following the workout. “That would be the most important part of our transition game.”
When Maurice was hired in June, he said the first thing that popped out to him when watching them play last season was their play through the zones.
Florida came at teams in waves last season and ended up setting franchise records for goals scored as it was not only the highest-scoring team in the league but the highest-scoring team in more than 20 years.
That sort of play has been lacking from the Panthers throughout this season as they came into the day ranked 13th in the league in goals-per-game (3.24) while leading the NHL in shots-per-game (36.3).
Scoring led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy as the No. 1 team in the NHL last season — while they stand eight points out of the playoffs in this one.
”Transition is an important part of our game and it was what was lacking,’’ Maurice said. “What we have tried to identify in our past two practices is identify the key piece we need and go out there and work on it. We have to move the puck better than we did last night.”
GOALIE TANDEM TO RETURN?
Over the past few months, the Panthers have been relying heavily on one goalie while the other gets the odd start.
With the schedule in January looking like Florida’s toughest yet — nine of the next 12 are away from Sunrise — Maurice said the Panthers need both goalies to get hot.
As practice came to a close Monday, Maurice met with both Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight at center ice with goalie coach Robb Tallas.
“I told them where I was at, mentally, for the rest of the month,” Maurice said. “What I am thinking about is not set in stone, I want Robb Tallas to work with both of these guys. I need them both feeling good. The schedule says I can’t run one guy with that number of games.
“The question will be, you have to get one guy going for sure or can you get both guys going. There’s enough hockey, for sure, for both guys to play and get into a rhythm because it is such a heavy schedule.”
Bobrovsky has started 10 of the past 12 games with some of that due to Knight getting sick at the start of December and being unavailable.
Lately, however, it has been Bobrovsky being the starter by default with Knight only getting a game at Boston on Dec. 19 and the second of a back-to-back in Carolina last Friday.
When Knight started for Florida at Winnipeg on Dec. 6, he had started seven of the previous nine games.
After playing Arizona tonight, the Panthers travel to Detroit to kick off a four-game trip with stops in Dallas, Colorado and Vegas.
Florida is home for a game against Vancouver and then heads back out for back-to-back games in Buffalo and Toronto with that trip ending in Montreal.
PANTHERS ON DECK
ARIZONA COYOTES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- This season (Arizona leads 1-0): Coyotes 3, Panthers 1 (Nov. 1)
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Arizona leads 20-16-2, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Friday night at Detroit Red Wings