Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice hopes Aleksander Barkov is back to form scoring goals and Sergei Bobrovsky is back to form stopping them.
The Panthers, who have won three of their past four games, are set to play host to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.
On Tuesday, Barkov scored his first 5-on-5 goal of the season — and just his fourth overall — as the Panthers beat the Washington Capitals, 5-2.
Last season, Barkov scored a career-high 39 goals, including 23 at even strength. But Barkov is also unselfish, sometimes looking to pass too much.
“When (Barkov’s) mentality is shoot first,” Maurice said, “he is such a dynamic player.”
Barkov, who had 49 assists last year and has 10 so far, has been perhaps a bit unlucky in this campaign.
“He’s played really good hockey but the points haven’t been there for him,” Maurice said. “He’s a driver for us. He needs to have success.”
The same can be said for Bobrovsky, Florida’s starting goalie who has lost time lately to backup Spencer Knight.
After losing three of four games, Bobrovsky was benched for three straight contests. He was back in net on Tuesday, and he stopped a season-high 41 shots. Perhaps even more important, Bobrovsky led the Panthers’ penalty kill, which went 5-for-5 against the Capitals.
“I felt good,” Bobrovsky said after Tuesday’s win. “I saw the puck well. (My teammates) cleared the front of the net.”
Maurice praised Bobrovsky, who is now 4-4-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average. Knight is 5-2-0 with a 2.31 GAA.
“Our penalty kill deserves all the credit, and the goalie is the key piece, right?” Maurice said of Bobrovsky.
Meanwhile, Dallas coach Peter DeBoer, who coached the Panthers for three playoff-less seasons (2008-11), has found much more success since then. He’s taken three straight franchises — New Jersey, San Jose and Vegas — to at least a conference championship. In fact, he led New Jersey and San Jose to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Now, DeBoer has the Stars in first place in the Central Division in his first season in Dallas.
Jason Robertson leads Dallas in goals (11) and points (25). Robertson, 23, also led the Stars in goals last season with a career-high 41.
Robertson often plays on a highly effective top line that also includes Roope Hintz (six goals, 14 assists) and Joe Pavelski (nine goals, 10 assists).
If anything, the Stars’ biggest issue is getting secondary scoring from its other lines.
One of those secondary scorers is Mason Marchment, a former Panthers forward who has five goals and four assists in 16 games.
In goal, Jake Oettinger has emerged as Dallas’ top guy, posting a 6-2-1 record and a 2.12 GAA. His backup is Scott Wedgewood (3-3-1, 3.21 GAA).
Dallas is coming off a 5-4 overtime loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
“It’s a big point on the road against a really good team,” DeBoer said. “They’re not all going to be perfect games.”
–Field Level Media