Shorthanded Panthers look to continue Coyotes’ losing streak


Aleksander Barkov’s health will be of prime concern on Friday night when his Florida Panthers face the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz.

Barkov, Florida’s captain, first-line center and top player overall, had missed eight straight games due to a knee injury before returning on Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss at the St. Louis Blues.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Barkov left that game in the third period due to an unrelated injury.

Barkov leads the Panthers with 10 goals, and he is perhaps the best two-way forward in the league.

The Panthers are also missing winger Anthony Duclair, whose speed sets up a lot of offense. He has 17 points in 19 games.

Noel Acciari, who scored 20 goals last season as a highly effective fourth-line grinder, has been injured since early October.

Another issue for the Panthers is their performance on the road. The Panthers lead the Atlantic Division with a .760 points percentage, but that is mostly on the strength of their home record, which is the best in the NHL at 14-1-0.

On the road, Florida is just 3-3-4.

The Arizona game continues a stretch during which the Panthers play five of seven games away from home. But given Florida’s overall success this season, you can’t blame interim coach Andrew Brunette for feeling optimistic.

“I’m extremely lucky to have a group like this,” Brunette said. “They’re fun to watch night in and night out.”

Arizona, meanwhile, is struggling. The Coyotes have just a .240 points percentage, and they are 2-7-1 at home.

“We’re chasing wins,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny insisted. “We’re trying to win games. We have to take positives, build on that and learn from a few mistakes.”

The Coyotes are hoping to break a three-game losing streak.

Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller both on three-game points streaks. Keller is tied with Travis Boyd for the team goal-scoring lead with six.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a native of South Florida, leads the team with 13 assists, and he is tied with Keller for the points lead at 17. A team-high five of Gostisbehere’s assists have come on the power play.

Scott Wedgewood and rookie Karel Vejmelka — both new to Arizona this season — have split goalie duties. Wedgewood is 3-5-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Vejmelka is 2-10-1 with a 3.13 GAA and a .906 SP.

The Panthers, who beat Arizona 5-3 in South Florida on Oct. 25, have relied mostly on veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 11-1-2 with a 2.41 GAA and a .920 SP. Rookie backup Spencer Knight is 6-3-2 with a 2.98 GAA and a .904 SP.

Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in assists with 21 and in points (30). He leads Florida with seven power-play assists, but seven of his nine goals have come at even strength.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers in ice time and is second in points (23) and is tied for fourth with eight goals.

Carter Verhaeghe is third on the team with 20 points.

–Field Level Media

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