SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are going for an NHL record at home on Saturday night and it seems like the perfect time to welcome in the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Not to say the Kraken have gotten off to a rough start, but there have been few positive comparisons to the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights — when talking about the on-ice product in the opening two months.
Seattle is coming off a 3-0 loss in Tampa on Friday night and that is completely understandable. The team played at home on Wednesday night and then had to make the long flight east to face one of the best teams in the NHL.
The short jaunt across the Everglades to South Florida will be most welcomed after their previous trip.
Seattle went into its game against the Lightning after winning its past two. Some were wondering if the Kraken had turned things around.
The team, after all, had lost six consecutive and eight of nine before beating the Capitals and Hurricanes at Climate Pledge Arena.
Florida should be a little salty after Friday night’s 4-3 loss in Washington, one in which Alex Ovechkin got a hat trick in part to two goals where he was simply left all by himself.
The Panthers will welcome back Chris Driedger and Alex Wennberg with open arms Saturday night, but this team wants a win in the worst way.
Florida is 11-0 at home so far and that is tied with the 1963 Chicago Black Hawks for the best home start in NHL history.
With a win Saturday, the Panthers have that record all to themselves.
It won’t come easy, not with Driedger getting the start against his old mates.
Driedger was Florida’s 1-B goalie last season and went 14-6-3 with a 2.07/.927 during the regular season.
Getting the kind of playing time he did made Seattle’s choice in picking him in the expansion draft — they did the Panthers a solid by doing so — and easy one.
“I think the last season was a crucial building block for me,” Driedger said on the night of the expansion draft.
“With the schedule so compact, even though we were rotating, I was still playing two games a week and that’s pretty much a starter workload during a normal NHL season. It was good to know I could handle that kind of a workload. It was good for my confidence.”
Driedger, no doubt, will be warmly received by his old teammates and the fans in attendance.
So will Wennberg who only spent one season with the Panthers and all but priced him out of the South Florida market by scoring a career-high 17 goals.
He signed a three-year deal worth $13.5 million deal with the Kraken on signing day.
“The kindness I received on social media from Panthers fans has been overwhelmingly positive and incredible,” Driedger said.
“Panthers fans have been great to me, I have nothing but positive things to say about my time in South Florida. I was extremely fortunate to be able to be a part of that organization.
“Last season was a blast. We were unfortunate to lose in the first round, but we had a really strong team. You could tell the fans were starting to rally around the group we had there.
“I had a blast and I will always look back fondly on my time in Florida.”
— On Saturday, the Panthers recalled Aleksi Heponiemi from AHL Charlotte and there was no corresponding roster move.
One would have to assume Sasha Barkov was moved to IR since he has already missed enough time to be activated at any point.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
SEATTLE KRAKEN AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time record: First-ever meeting
- NHL Standings: Florida 14-3-3, 31 points (1st Atlantic); Seattle 6-13-1, 13 (8th Pacific)
- Current streak: Florida L1; Seattle L1
- Odds via BetMGM: Florida (PL -1.5 +125) — (ML -200) — U/O 6
- Up next: Washington at Florida, Tuesday, 7; Seattle at Buffalo, Monday, 7
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 74 Owen Tippett
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
77 Frank Vatrano // 19 Joe Thornton // 20 Aleksi Heponiemi
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
62 Brandon Montour // 32 Lucas Carlsson
30 Spencer Knight
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Maxim Mamin
Injured: Noel Acciari (IR), Olli Juolevi (IR), Markus Nutivaara (IR), Mason Marchment (IR), Sasha Barkov (IR), Anthony Duclair
PROJECTED SEATTLE KRAKEN LINEUP
90 Marcus Johansson // 21 Alex Wennberg // 7 Jordan Eberle
22 Mason Appleton // 37 Yanni Gourde // 17 Jaden Schwartz
13 Brandon Tanev // 67 Morgan Geekie // 16 Jared McCann
9 Ryan Donato // 15 Riley Sheahan // 72 Joonas Donskoi
24 Jamie Oleksiak // 4 Hadyn Fleury
6 Adam Larsson // 55 Jeremy Lauzon
29 Vince Dunn // 28 Carson Soucy
60 Chris Driedger
31 Philipp Grubauer