Preview: Panthers riding 2-game win streak in return home to host Sharks
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
MIAMI — The Florida Panthers thoroughly enjoyed their trip earlier this week to the New York metropolitan area.
Let’s put it this way: The Panthers (10-12-2), who host the San Jose Sharks on Friday night at the BB&T Center, are hoping they can bottle the intensity with which they played during their two-game winning streak.
The Panthers beat two good teams, defeating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 with starting goalie Roberto Luongo and then scored a goal with 1:09 left to knock out the New York Rangers, 5-4. In the latter effort, backup goalie James Reimer got the start as Florida ended New York’s eight-game home winning streak.
It’s hard to believe, but the two-game winning streak matches a season high for Florida.
In the win against the Rangers, New York got the better of the play from the second period on, but Florida did just enough to win.
“It felt like the ice was slanted (in New York’s favor),” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s a nice feeling when you can find a way to win those games.”
Meanwhile, the Sharks (13-8-2) have been playing extremely well, going 3-0-1 in their past four games, three of which were on the road.
The Sharks have been winning despite some key injuries. First-pair defenseman Paul Martin is on injured reserve, still coping with offseason ankle surgery.
More recently, injuries have hit starting goalie Martin Jones and third-line left winger Joonas Donskoi.
Backup Sharks goalie Aaron Dell stepped up and made 23 saves in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Dell, 28, is 14-9-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average in his two years in the NHL.
As for Jones, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer is unsure when he will return to the lineup.
“If I had to guess, yes,” DeBoer told The Mercury News when asked if Jones would return by the time their road trip ends on Monday. “But that can change from day to day.”
The Panthers are dealing with their own injuries, and all of it has occurred at the same position — right wing.
First-line right winger Evgenii Dadonov is out four-to-six weeks due to a shoulder injury. Second-line right winger Radim Vrbata, who got hit with a puck, is on injured reserve after suffering facial fractures.
The Panthers have had to scramble to fill those holes, calling up Denis Malgin from the American Hockey League and inserting him on their top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Florida also moved third-line center Nick Bjugstad to second-line right wing.
Malgin, a 20-year-old from Switzerland, made the Panthers look smart on Tuesday when his goal with 69 seconds left beat the Rangers. It was just his seventh in NHL goal, and it came in his 54th game in the league.
Let’s see if the Panthers can carry that momentum back home to the BB&T Center, where they have lost more often than they have won this season (5-4-2).
The Sharks, meanwhile, are a stellar 6-2-1 on the road.
It will also be interesting to see how Boughner, who was a San Jose assistant coach focusing on defense the past two years, handles a Shark lineup that includes defenseman Brent Burns, who won the Norris Trophy in 2017.
Burns, 32, and a former first-rounder, is a 6-5, 230-pounder who scored 29 goals last season but has just one score this season. Logan Couture leads San Jose with 13 goals.
Vinny Trocheck leads Florida with 10 goals, and the Panthers are expected to return to Luongo in between the pipes.