One week after Anthony Stolarz made his debut for the Florida Panthers, he will be back in net when they face the host Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
Stolarz made 27 saves in a 3-1 win against the (still) winless San Jose Sharks.
Tonight should be more of a challenge.
The Blackhawks are likely to come into the night an angry bunch after losing four of their past five games — including 8-1 at the hands of the Coyotes in Tempe on Monday.
Chicago has had a lot of time to stew on that one.
“They have had a bunch of days off,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said, “and that can be really good, or really bad. We want to make sure our legs are right.”
By virtue of Stolarz starting tonight, it is all but assured Sergei Bobrovsky — who made 22 saves in a 2-0 shutout in Detroit on Thursday — plays Monday at home against Columbus.
To be fair, this was the plan all along.
Rarely do you see a goalie take the night off a game after a shutout, but with the Panthers having two of their next three games away from home, this is a good chance to give Bobrovsky a break and get Stolarz a quality start.
Maurice noted on Saturday that Stolarz “prepped real hard in practice and pushed his body knowing he wasn’t playing in Detroit but he was playing the next one.’’
Although the Panthers held an optional skate on Saturday, FloridaPanthers.com reporter Jameson Olive noted in Friday’s practice that Maurice was keeping the bottom line switch he made Thursday intact with Kevin Stenlund moving up to center the third line.
Eetu Luostarinen started the game as the third-line center but is back on the left wing with Stenlund centering and Nick Cousins on the right side.
Steven Lorentz is centering Ryan Lomberg and Will Lockwood.
— Tonight will be the first time Florida faces Chicago phenom Connor Bedard.
The top overall pick by the lottery-winning Blackhawks, Bedard has four goals and six points thus far. He comes into the night with goals in three of his past four games.
“He is special and exciting to watch,” Maurice said. “I am really happy he is in the West.’’
The Blackhawks held the highest odds to win the draft lottery but dropped to third when they beat the host Penguins back on April 11.
That win clinched a playoff spot for the Panthers — and being third, turned out to be the winning slot for the Blackhawks.
— The starting goalies: Lorentz against Petr Mrazek.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
- When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Where: United Center, Chicago
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- DraftKings odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-205); Puck line (-1.5, +124); Over/Under 6.5 (-125/+105)
- Last Season: Tied 1-1
- This season: @Chicago, Saturday; @Florida, Sunday Nov. 12
- All-time regular season series: Blackhawks lead 28-18-4, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday vs. Columbus, 7 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (5-3-1) LINES
17 Evan Rodrigues // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 15 Anton Lundell // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 21 Nick Cousins
94 Ryan Lomberg // 18 Steven Lorentz // 67 Will Lockwood
42 Gus Forsling // 91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
77 Niko Mikkola // 7 Dmitry Kulikov
28 Josh Mahura // 26 Uvis Balinksins
41 Anthony Stolarz
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Mike Reilly, Rasmus Asplund
Injured: Aaron Ekblad (LTIR-shoulder), Brandon Montour (IR-shoulder), Jonah Gadjovich (UBI), Sam Bennett (LBI)
PROJECTED CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (3-6-0) LINES
17 Nick Foligno // 98 Connor Bedard // 23 Philipp Kurashev
27 Lukas Reichel // 89 Andreas Athanasiou // 11 Taylor Raddysh
71 Taylor Hall // 17 Jason Dickinson // 90 Tyler Johnson
8 Ryan Donato // 58 MacKenzie Entwistle // 94 Corey Perry
55 Kevin Korchinski // 4 Seth Jones
25 Jarred Tinordi // 5 Connor Murphy
44 Wyatt Kaiser // 22 Nikita Zaitsev
34 Petr Mrazek
40 Arvid Soderblom
Scratched: Boris Katchouk, Isaak Phillips