After missing most of training camp with an undisclosed injury, Panthers Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky returns to his spot between the pipes tonight as the 1-0-0 Panthers look to sweep the two game set against the 0-3-0 Chicago Blackhawks.
The Panthers won game one on Sunday by a score of 5-2. Jonathan Huberdeau put up three points including a goal. Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Eetu Luostarinen and Patric Hornqvist also lit the lamp in the Panthers opener. For Chicago, Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy beat Chris Driedger for the two Blackhawk goals. Patrick Kane looked like he had a goal, but it was waived off for offsides. Driedger made 25 saves on 27 shots for the Panthers, while Collin Delia stopped 24 of 29 shots for Chicago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sergei Bobrovsky (Goalie-Florida)- Bobrovsky prepares to start his first game following the worst season of his professional career. Bobrovsky posted a 23-19-6 record in 50 games with a .900 save percentage and a 3.23 GAA. This was less than ideal for the 32 year old Russian who had recently signed a 7 year $10 million AAV deal with the Panthers. The two time Veznia winner hopes to bounce back with a new look defense in front of him. In 14 career games against Chicago, Bob is 8-4-2 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.47 GAA.
Alex DeBrincat (Forward-Chicago)-DeBrincat has been the driving force for the Blackhawks lackluster offense so far. The 5’7 American has scored two of the five goals for the Blackhawks so far and has an assist on another one. DeBrincat is an explosive player and he must have an eye on him, which may be hard to do as he plays with Patrick Kane
The Blackhawks are likely to come out with a lot of desperation and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sergei Bobrovsky under siege most of the night. The 0-3-0 Blackhawks desperately need a win to save face. Chicago needs to be better 5 on 5. Chicago was shut out at 5 on 5 by the Panthers on Sunday night and a strong 5 on 5 game is crucial, because in an average game, that’s like 90% of action. I expect the Blackhawks to try to play an up-tempo more offensive heavy game. The powerplay needs work. Sure they beat Driedger on the DeBrincat one timer, but they also allowed Aleksander Barkov to deke out all five Blackhawks on the ice by himself on the penalty kill.
It’s unknown who the Blackhawks will start in net. My guess would be Kevin Lankinen, however he is on the taxi squad. The Finnish netminder is third on the Blackhawks depth chart and is looking to make his NHL debut. Jeremy Collitton announced that he would rotate Lankinen with Subban and Delia this season. If not Lankinen, then Malcolm Subban would probably get the nod. I doubt Collitton goes with Delia after two games in which he gave up 5 goals a pop. Since Lankinen is still on the taxi squad, I think the safe bet goes to Malcolm Subban.
Chicago Projected Lineup
12 DeBrincat- 24 Suter- 88 Kane
23 Kurashev- 17 Strome- 8 Kubalik
13 Janmark- 71 Wallmark- 65 Shaw
36 Highmore- 64 Kampf- 22 Carpenter
2 Keith- 5 Murphy
16 Zadorov- 27 Boqvist
44 De Haan- 51 Mitchell
Scratched: 73 Pirri; 46 Carlsson; 48 Kalynuk
Non-Roster: 34 Soderberg (COVID-19)
Injury List: 19 Toews (Illness, Indefinitely, LTIR); 77 Dach (Wrist, 4-5 months, LTIR); 92 Nylander (Torn Meniscus, 3-5 months, LTIR); 7 Seabrook (Back, Indefinitely, IR)
The Panthers have made a few lineup changes. Other than Bobrovsky starting, the team has switched Ryan Lomberg with former Blackhawk Vinnie Hinostroza. Riley Stillman also makes his season debut as he is in for Gustav Forsling.
The Panthers had a solid defensive showing Sunday night, which was night and day when compared to the defense last season. Now it’s time to see how Bobrovsky plays with this defense.
The Panthers had a COVID scare yesterday as Defenseman Markus Nutivaara, who had just been cleared from the COVID list was placed back on it, only hours after practicing with the team. It is possible that there was a mistake as this game as of the time I’m writing this, is still going on.
If I’m correct and the Blackhawks are overzealous in their offensive play, the Panthers can take advantage of that and the game could easily turn into a blowout, if the Panthers can beat the Blackhawks defense. However I don’t expect a blowout.
Florida Projected Lines
23 Verehaege- 16 Barkov- 91 Duclair
11 Huberdeau- 21 Wennberg- 70 Hornqvist
77 Vatrano- 27 Luostarinen- 74 Tippett
13 Hinostroza- 55 Acciari- 10 Connolly
52 Weegar- 5 Ekblad
3 Yandle- 7 Gudas
61 Stillman- 6 Stralman
Scratched: 42 Forsling; 94 Lomberg; 33 Montembeault
Non-Roster: 65 Nutivaara (COVID-19); 83 Lammikko (COVID-19)
This year I’m going to try to preview and recap all 56 games. In each preview, I will submit my score prediction. I will do something where if I pick the winner right, I get one point and if I get the correct score I get a bonus point as well as another bonus point for picking who scores the GWG. Since this idea just came to me, I cannot invite others to do it, because it wouldn’t be fair. So far I am 0-1 with 0 points.
My prediction for tonight is a 4-1 Florida victory with a GWG from Barkov.
Update on the Yandle Saga
Keith Yandle scored his 100th career goal Sunday night just 36 hours after he was supposed to be a healthy scratch. Apparently there is a rift between management and players over Yandle.
According to Elliotte Friedman, he thinks that the players went to Joel Quenneville or Bill Zito and demanded that Yandle play. This is good and bad. It’s good because it shows the players are a united front and have truly bonded and care about each other, which is crucial in establishing a good team culture. It’s also bad because it means there could be a rift between the players and management with Quenneville and Zito caught smack dab in the middle.
According to Nick Kyperos, a trade almost occured in a three way involving Florida, Boston and NYI but Yandle did not waive his NMC, even though it seemed that Boston would’ve ended up with him. Ownership was apparently not pleased and put pressure on Zito and Quenneville to scratch Yandle. The players got involved and Yandle played. Zito is reportedly under pressure to trade Yandle.
The players have invested almost all of their cards by pressuring Q and Zito to play Yandle. The goal was a culture change and apparently someone up high told Yandle he wasn’t a good teammate, which really hurt Yandle. This ticked off the players, as Yandle is beloved in the locker room and apparently always picks up the tab on the road. Yandle was also given his Alternate Captaincy back. Reportedly, Yandle and his agent received an apology for the situation.
COVID Strikes Again
Tonight’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators was postponed due to Carolina experiencing a situation with COVID. The Panthers are supposed to travel to Raleigh tomorrow and play the Canes on Thursday and Saturday. It is likely that those games will be cancelled. The Predators are supposed to play the Dallas Stars on Friday, which would open the season for Dallas. I’m wondering if maybe the NHL moves the Tampa-Columbus games to next week and moves the Columbus-Florida games to this week. That might make the most sense. However Tampa already missed games due to the virus so it could be a Florida-Tampa series as well.