Fresh off a weekend sweep in Detroit, the Florida Panthers are back in action Thursday night as they play host to the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center.
Due to Covid-19 problems with other teams, the Panthers have only played six games in 2021 — yet are off to their best start over six games in franchise history at 5-0-1.
Thursday’s game, the first of two against Nashville, will only be the third game on home ice for the Panthers this season.
Florida is 2-0 at home after sweeping Chicago in their season-opening series in January.
The Panthers are 5-0-1 and their six-game point streak is the second-longest point streak to start a season in franchise history.
It is the longest since the shootout-tiebreaker replaced ties in 2005-06.
The Panthers have not lost a game in regulation this season and go into Thursday as the only team in the league to not have a regulation loss.
Coach Joel Quenneville said that Sergei Bobrovsky will start Thursday with the likelihood Chris Dreidger goes in Game 2 against the Preds on Friday night.
It would be Bobrovsky’s 500th NHL start.
Bobrovsky (3-0) is only the second Panthers goaltender in franchise history to have wins in each of his three starts to begin a season (Scott Clemmensen, 2011-12). He could be the first Florida goalie to start a season 4-0 with a win tonight.
The Panthers have changed up their lineup a little bit since beating Detroit 3-2 on Sunday.
Veteran forward Brett Connolly was a healthy scratch for both games in Detroit but is expected to be back on the third line Thursday.
Owen Tippett, who returned to the lineup in Detroit after being scratched for Game 2 in Columbus, was returned to the taxi squad and is not expected to play against Nashville.
Aleksi Heponiemi and Juho Lammikko, who made their season debuts in Game 1 Saturday against Detroit, appear to remain in the lineup on the fourth line with Noel Acciari.
With Gustav Forsling still on the injured list, Florida’s defensive pairings are expected to remain the same although Radko Gudas had spent practice time on the second pair with Anton Stralman.
Thursday’s game kicks off a six-game homestand for the Panthers with games against Nashville, Detroit and Tampa Bay upcoming.
Ten of Florida’s 14 games in February will be played on home ice.
Nashville Predators at Florida Panthers
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise
Records/Standings: Florida 5-0-1 (T-3rd in Central); Nashville 4-5-0 (7th)
All-time series: Florida leads 15-9-5 (3 ties)
Season series: First of eight meetings in 2021
Last season: Florida won both meetings (3-2, SO; 3-0)
Up next: Nashville at Florida, Friday, 7 p.m.
Projected Florida Panthers lines
23 Carter Verhaeghe — 16 Sasha Barkov — 91 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau — 21 Alex Wennberg — 70 Patric Hornqvist
77 Frank Vatrano —27 Eetu Luostarinen — 10 Brett Connolly
55 Noel Acciari — 20 Aleksi Heponiemi — 83 Juho Lammikko
52 MacKenzie Weegar — 5 Aaron Ekblad
65 Markus Nutivaara — 6 Anton Stralman
3 Keith Yandle — 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
60 Chris Driedger
Likely scratches: D Noah Juulsen, F Vinnie Hinostroza
Taxi squad: D Kevin Connauton, F Ryan Lomberg, F Owen Tippett, F Mason Marchment, G Philippe Desrosiers.
IR: D Gustav Forsling (upper body)
Florida power play (7/19, 36.8% — 4th in NHL)
Florida penalty kill (17/21 81% — 11th in NHL)
PP1: Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Patric Hornqvist, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle
PP2: Alex Wennberg, Frank Vatrano, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Anton Stralman
Projected Nashville Predators lines
21 Nick Cousins — 92 Ryan Johansen — 33 Viktor Arvidsson
9 Filip Forsberg — 95 Matt Duchene — 64 Mikael Granlund
32 Yakov Trenin — 10 Colton Sissons — 28 Eeli Tolvanen
23 Rocco Grimaldi — 56 Erik Haula — 25 Mathieu Olivier
59 Roman Josi — 4 Ryan Ellis
14 Mattias Ekholm — 57 Dante Fabbro
24 Jarred Tinordi — 5 Matt Benning
74 Jusse Saros
35 Pikka Rinne
Nashville power play (4/36 11.1% — 29th in NHL)
Nashville penalty kill (24/37 64.9% — 30th in NHL)
PP1: Nick Cousins, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi
PP2: Eeli Tolvanen, Matt Duchene, Viktor Arvidsson, Dante Fabbro, Mikael Granlund