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Panthers try to bounce back against Predators with Driedger in net

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Goalie Chris Driedger is congratulated after a victory at the BB&T Center during the 2021 season. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography

Chris Driedger will have the opportunity to help put the Panthers back in the win column Saturday afternoon as he returns to the net against the visiting Nashville Predators.

With Florida playing back-to-back games this weekend, the odds were high that Driedger would get his first game since losing in Carolina 4-2 on March 7.

Since that loss in Raleigh, one in which the Panthers were playing in different time zones less than 24 hours apart, Sergei Bobrovsky went 4-1 against Columbus, Chicago and Nashville.

Bobrovsky, who had a personal six-game winning streak snapped by the Preds on Thursday night, is expected to get the start Sunday in Tampa.

The Panthers feel they have a chance to win any game regardless of which goaltender plays. And they have a reason for that.

Driedger is 7-3-2 and his .920 save percentage ranks 12th among starters. Bobrovsky is 12-3-2 with a save percentage of .906.

“It’s really important to have two, really good goalies,” Alex Wennberg said.

“Especially now, with the way the schedule that we have, to have games where one guy plays and then the other steps in. It doesn’t matter who is in net. We’re comfortable with both of them.”

WEEGAR KEEPS SCORING

MacKenzie Weegar started the play which led to Patric Hornqvist feeding Jonathan Huberdeau for Florida’s lone goal Thursday night.

It was Weegar’s point streak to a career-high six games (1-7-8) which is tied with Sasha Barkov for the longest point streak of the season.

The six-game point streak is tied for the second-longest point streak by a Panthers defenseman in franchise history.

Keith Yandle had a seven-game run early in the 2018-19 season.

Weegar now has 17 points off two goals with all of those points save for one coming in 5-on-5 play which ranks second (Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse has 19) among NHL defensemen.

“He’s evolving in the right fashion,’’ Joel Quenneville said.

“Defense is a point that we’ll always emphasize as far as being a priority. He adds to it with his possession game. It’s a good thing going on and real good progress.’’

KILLIN’ IT

Florida’s penalty kill has been awful impressive the past few games as the Panthers have not allowed a power play goal in their past three games, going 11-for-11 including a 55 second 5-on-3 disadvantage Thursday.

The Panthers have only given up one power play goal in their past five games (16-17, 94%) and just three in 26 attempts in the past eight games.

“I think we’ve had some good clears, had some good blocks, denied some lanes, got some big saves,’’ Quenneville said.

“Combine them all and there’s a little more pressure on entries and in the zone setting up as well. I think that’s been disruptive.”

ROSTER MOVE

The Panthers sent rookie winger Grigori Denisenko back to AHL Syracuse on Friday.

Denisenko played in two games for the Panthers after being called up earlier this month but has been on the taxi squad for the past 10 days.

In four games with the Crunch this year, Denisenko has two goals and three points.

Denisenko was the 15th overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Panthers.

Nashville Predators at Florida Panthers 

  • When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
  • Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise
  • Tickets: AVAILABLE HERE
  • TV/Radio: FSF/560-AM
  • Records (standings): Florida 19-6-4, 42 points (T-2nd in Central); Nashville 13-16-1, 27 points (6th)
  • All-time series: Florida leads 18-10-6 (3 ties)
  • Season series: Florida leads 3-1-1
  • Last season: Florida won 2-0
  • Up next: Florida at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 5 p.m.
  • Previous game: Preds 2, Panthers 1
  • Panthers This Week — Monday: Florida 6, Chicago 3; Thursday: Nashville 2, Florida 1; Saturday: Nashville at Florida, 2; Sunday: Florida at Tampa Bay, 4.

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINES

FLORIDA FORWARDS

91 Anthony Duclair — 16 Sasha Barkov — 23 Carter Verhaeghe

11 Jonathan Huberdeau — 21 Alex Wennberg — 70 Patric Hornqvist

77 Frank Vatrano — 27 Eetu Luostarinen — 74 Owen Tippett

19 Mason Marchment — 55 Noel Acciari — 94 Ryan Lomberg

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FLORIDA DEFENSEMEN

52 MacKenzie Weegar — 5 Aaron Ekblad

42 Gustav Forsling — 7 Radko Gudas

3 Keith Yandle — 6 Anton Stralman

FLORIDA GOALIES

60 Chris Driedger

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratches: F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Juho Lammikko, D Markus Nutivaara

Injured: D Noah Juulsen (upper body)

Taxi squad: D Kevin Connauton, D Riley Stillman, F Brett Connolly, G Philippe Desrosiers

Florida power play (23/88 26.1% — 7th in NHL)

Florida penalty kill (70/87 80.5% — 11th in NHL)

PP1: Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Patric Hornqvist, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle

PP2: Alex Wennberg, Frank Vatrano, Mason Marchment, Carter Verhaeghe, Gustav Forsling

PROJECTED NASHVILLE PREDATORS LINES

NASHVILLE FORWARDS

9 Filip Forsberg — 92 Ryan Johansen — 29 Eeli Tolvanen

19 Calle Jankrok — 64 Mikael Granlund — 33 Viktor Arvidsson

21 Nick Cousins — 56 Erik Haula — 23 Rocco Grimaldi

13 Yakov Trenin — 10 Colton Sissons — 25 Mathieu Olivier

NASHVILLE DEFENSEMEN

14 Mattias Ekholm — 90 Mark Borowiecki

38 Jeremy Davies — 5 Matt Benning

72 Frederic Allard — 57 Dante Fabbro

NASHVILLE GOALIES

1 Juuse Saros

35 Pekka Rinne

Nashville power play (19/97 19.5% — 19th in NHL)

Nashville penalty kill (69/100 69% — 31st in NHL)

PP1: Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund, Filip Forsberg, Eeli Tolvanen, Mattias Ekholm

PP2: Nick Cousins, Erik Haula, Calle Jarnkrok, Dante Fabbro, Viktor Arvidsson

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