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Secret Ingredient for Reinhart & Barkov May Be Rodrigues

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Sam Reinhart, center, is congratulated by Sasha Barkov and Evan Rodrigues after scoring in the first period against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night in Newark. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

In each of the past two seasons, the Florida Panthers have put Sam Reinhart up on a top line with captain Sasha Barkov only to break them up not too long afterward.

While the two have played together at times 5-on-5 and certainly on the power play, it certainly was not a thing.

Looks like it could be now.

The difference?

Well, the obvious one is adding Evan Rodrigues to the mix.

Although Reinhart did not start Game 1 with Barkov and Rodrigues up on the top line, coach Paul Maurice moved him up there in the second game and kept them together.

So far, so good.

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Reinhart ended up scoring Florida’s first goal of the season Saturday in Winnipeg and then scored two more in the Panthers’ 4-3 win over the Devils on Monday night.

On Reinhart’s first two goals, Rodrigues — who was a teammate in Buffalo — had the primary assists.

In fact, of Florida’s first five goals scored this season, Rodrigues had a hand in all of them — scoring twice himself in Winnipeg.

Of the five goals from Reinhart and Rodrigues, all came from around the net.

With the way the Panthers fire off the puck, that seems to be a good place to be.

“If I knew how to do that, I would have played,” Maurice said with a wry grin. “Those guys, their hands are so good. Rodrigues has found (Reinhart) twice, so they’re going to start looking for those tips and they’ll start moving off each other. But that’s chemistry and it takes a little bit. Great hands, right?”

Reinhart getting off to a strong start is certainly welcome news for the Panthers.

In each of his past two seasons, Reinhart has eclipsed the 30-goal mark but it took him a little while to get going before the pucks started going in.

In 2021, he did not get his third goal of the season until 12 games in; last season, Reinhart went his first 12 games without a goal and didn’t get No. 3 until his 16th game.

Right now, he is on fire.

“I have always said that he is one of the smartest players in the league,” Barkov said. “He has that stick which serves him well in front of the net and he can do whatever he wants there. He gets pucks, makes plays.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last Season: Toronto won Regular Season Series 3-1; Florida won Eastern Conference Semifinals 4-1
  • This season: @Florida, Thursday/April 16; @Toronto, Nov. 28/April 1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Vancouver Canucks, 7 p.m.

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