The Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are set to meet on Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla., are both coming off blowout wins.
Florida, which has the best home record in the NHL at 20-3-0, routed the visiting Dallas Stars 7-1 on Friday night.
Columbus routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-0 on Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C.
The Panthers’ line of Sam Bennett, Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair dominated the Stars. Bennett had three goals and one assist and was a plus-5. Huberdeau had one goal and three assists and was also a plus-5. Duclair had one goal and two assists and was an amazing plus-6.
“We’re a confident group,” Duclair said. “We have a ton of skill, tons of depth. It’s fun playing at home, and we want to keep things rolling here.”
Bennett, who has two hat tricks this season, has been a perfect fit since the Panthers acquired him from the Calgary Flames last season.
“Anytime you can generate personal success and help the team win, it’s a great feeling,” Bennett said. “I’m enjoying my time in South Florida.”
Columbus enjoyed itself Thursday, with 12 players getting on the scoresheet.
“For our team to play winning hockey, we’re going to need everybody,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said.
Leading the way for Columbus is defenseman Zach Werenski, 24, who was named an NHL All-Star on Friday. He ranks fourth on the Blue Jackets with 21 points.
Oliver Bjorkstrand leads Columbus with 26 points, and Boone Jenner tops the team with 14 goals. But Jakub Voracek, who is No. 1 on the Blue Jackets with 24 assists, entered COVID protocol this week and will be unavailable to face the Panthers.
Yegor Chinakhov, Columbus’ first-round pick in 2020, has just seven points in 26 games this season. However, he is on a roll lately with three goals in his past three games.
“It’s a great feeling to score goals,” Chinakhov said. “Of course, it gives me confidence.”
Columbus’ top goalie is Elvis Merzlikins, who is 13-8-1 with a 3.04 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
Since the Panthers will be playing on consecutive nights, it is possible they will rest starting netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (18-3-3), who played on Friday and is ranked among the top six goalies in wins this season.
Rookie Spencer Knight (7-4-2) is the Florida backup, and he has struggled at times, posting a 3.39 GAA and an .896 save percentage. He hasn’t played since defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 9-3 on Dec. 30.
Either way, the Panthers have a potent offense, especially at home. In 23 home games this season, the Panthers have scored at least four goals 19 times.
Huberdeau, named an NHL All-Star this week for the second time in his career, leads Florida’s offense with 51 points.
“I just have to get open, and he will get me the puck,” Duclair said of Huberdeau. “It’s an honor to play with him. It’s so fun.”
The Panthers are on a eight-game points streak, going 7-0-1 during that span.
Florida has not played Columbus yet this season, but the Panthers have beaten the Blue Jackets six straight times. The Panthers finished 7-0-1 against the Blue Jackets last season.
–Field Level Media