The Florida Panthers will try to start a new streak when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida had its nine-game win streak snapped on Saturday, losing 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils.
However, the Panthers ended the weekend with 56 points to trail only the Boston Bruins (59) in the Eastern Conference. Despite losing several players from last season’s roster — including forwards Eric Staal and Patric Hornqvist and defensemen Radko Gudas and Marc Staal — Florida has emerged following a slow start.
The Panthers also overcame the offseason surgeries of top defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour.
“I just think we know how to play the right way,” Montour said. “We know how what our strengths are.”
Referring to the winning streak, Montour said: “We’ll get back to it.”
Among the keys to the Panthers are forward Sam Reinhart and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky — both named All-Stars this season.
Reinhart leads the Panthers with 31 goals, and he entered Sunday ranked second in the NHL, just two tallies behind Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.
Bobrovsky (21-10-1, 2.45 goals-against average) leads all Eastern Conference goalies in wins. Bobrovsky said that being named an All-Star was important to him.
“It’s an honor to represent our franchise,” he said, “and it’s great to be in this group of young, superstar goalies.”
Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk is on an eight-game point streak, and he has seven goals and 10 assists during that span.
Meanwhile, the Ducks reside in seventh place in the Pacific Division, struggling with just 29 points. They finished last in the NHL standings last season with only 58 points.
Oddly, the Ducks – under new coach Greg Cronin — have played better on the road (8-11-0) than at home (6-16-1) this season.
The Ducks, who have lost two straight games and nine of their past 11, dropped a 5-1 road contest against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“We got caught in some long shifts and got tired,” Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg said. “That’s when penalties happen.”
The Ducks dropped a 2-1 decision to Florida on Nov. 17. Anaheim faced backup goalie Anthony Stolarz in that game, and it’s possible he starts again on Monday.
Stolarz has been among the best backups in the league this season — he’s 6-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA — and he figures to be extra-motivated as he spent the past four years in the Ducks organization.
The Ducks on Monday likely will start John Gibson, who has spent his entire 11-year career with the franchise. However, he led the league last season with 31 losses and 200 goals allowed, and he’s on pace for the most defeats again (7-17-0, 3.10 GAA).
Anaheim features two prominent ex-Panthers: forward Frank Vatrano and the aforementioned Gudas.
Vatrano leads the Ducks in goals (21) and points (31). With half a season to play, Vatrano needs just four goals to set his new career high.
Gudas, who has a well-earned reputation as an enforcer, is in his 12th NHL season. The Ducks are his fifth NHL franchise.
–Field Level Media
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