SUNRISE — Happy New Year to everyone! How about we ring in 2022 with a little hockey? On Saturday afternoon, the Florida Panthers kickoff the New Year by playing host to the Montreal Canadiens at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers, obviously, ended 2021 in style.
Florida has won its past two games, beating the Rangers and Lightning by a combined 13-6.
The Panthers put up nine against the Lightning on Thursday night, the second-most goals they have ever scored in a single game and most since beating the Bruins 10-5 back in 1997 — the final season the team played at Miami Arena.
Florida is 16-3 at home this season.
“We always like to have the crowd behind us,’’ Sasha Barkov said. “It has been unreal for us all season. We love to play here.
“Whenever we win, it is so much fun to play here. We just want to keep winning and we play against this team a lot in the past and this season too. Always the same mindset that we gotta beat these guys and it is always fun when you do.”
Florida obviously took advantage of the Lightning being without All-World goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and hope to do the same this afternoon against old pal Sam Montembeault.
Montembeault, lost on waivers to the Canadiens during the preseason, has started their past two games.
The Canadiens put up a fight in Tampa against the Lightning in a 5-4 loss on Tuesday but were downed 4-0 at Carolina on Thursday.
Florida would like to keep this successful homestand going.
The Panthers play host to a decimated Canadiens team today and Calgary on Tuesday night before hitting the road again.
On Thursday, the Panthers were without Sam Bennett whom Andrew Brunette said wasn’t feeling good and was told to stay home.
Frank Vatrano got back into the lineup after being scratched Wednesday and scored a goal with an assist in the blowout of the Lightning.
As has been the case with many teams around the league, Montreal has been hit hard by Covid cases and has been forced to fill its roster with a lot of AHL players.
It has been a rough year for the Canadiens even before their recent lineup problems as they sit in last place in the Eastern Conference after making a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals just a few months ago.
The Panthers are heavy, heavy betting favorites in this one.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
MONTREAL CANADIENS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
- NHL Betting Odds from FanDuel: Florida favored (PL -2.5 +100) — (ML -690) — U/O 6.5
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Tied 48-48, 6 ties
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 98 Maxim Mamin
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair
77 Frank Vatrano // 13 Sam Reinhart // 17 Mason Marchment
74 Owen Tippett // 15 Anton Lundell // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
32 Lucas Carlsson // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
35 Jonas Johansson
Scratched: Ryan Lomberg, Joe Thornton, Eetu Luostarinen
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
Taxi Squad: Spencer Knight, Matt Kiersted, Chase Priskie
Covid Protocol: Olli Juolevi
PROJECTED MONTREAL CANADIENS LINEUP
42 Lukas Vejdemo // 14 Nick Suzuki // 11 Brendan Gallagher
49 Rafael Harvey-Pinard // 25 Ryan Poehling // 22 Cole Caufield
60 Alex Belzile // 71 Jake Evans // 56 Jesse Ylonen
13 Cedric Paquette // 55 Michael Pezzetta // 81 Brandon Baddock
27 Alexander Romanov // 58 David Savard
77 Brett Kulak // 43 Cale Clague
64 Corey Schueneman // 15 Sami Niku
35 Sam Montembeault
70 Michael McNiven