Preview: Panthers still streaking as matchup with surging Blue Jackets awaits
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: 7 p.m.
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The Florida Panthers roll into Columbus for a Thursday matchup against the Blue Jackets with a five-game winning streak after a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night on the road over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blue Jackets (10-6-2) are also playing well lately, having gone 2-0-2 in a four-game regulation unbeaten streak. Their latest triumph was a physical 2-1 win on Monday night in Dallas over the Stars.
The Panthers (7-5-3) are still stuck near the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings after a slow start, but they're getting contributions from a host of players during their streak while converting 35 percent (7 of 20) of their power-play opportunities and outscoring their opponents 19-7.
Mike Hoffman's 13-game streak with a point matches the longest in franchise history. He equaled the Panthers record set by Pavel Bure in 2000 with an assist on Aaron Ekblad's power-play goal against the Flyers. It's the longest streak in the NHL this season.
"Other things are cool to look back at once I'm a bit older, at my success in the league," Hoffman said, according to the team's website. "Right now, the focus is winning hockey games."
Hoffman, who came to the team in a June trade, has found his groove on the Panthers' top line with Evgenii Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov.
"I love what he's doing away from the puck," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "He's really playing hard and being smart defensively against other team's top lines."
Dadonov added the Panthers' second goal against the Flyers. He has a 12-game points streak of his own (seven goals, seven assists).
"They're just playing great hockey, not over-complicating things," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "When the play is there they make it and they're some of the best in the world at it. It's really fun to watch them play. It's extremely fun to watch Dadonov create things you didn't think could possibly happen and (Hoffman) has an unbelievable shot."
Also helping the Panthers win games is 39-year-old goaltender Roberto Luongo. He's 4-0-0 this season after a 30-save performance against the Flyers that included 17 stops in the third period. He needs one more win to tie Ed Belfour for third on the NHL career wins list for goaltenders with 484.
"It's a good feeling right now being around the locker room," Luongo said.
The Blue Jackets have picked up points in five of six November games (3-1-2) and were atop the Metropolitan Division standings entering Wednesday's games.
Cam Atkinson scored a goal and assisted on the winner by Pierre-Luc Dubois in the Blue Jackets' win in Dallas.
"We've had some challenges, but we're setting some things back in place and I think the last couple games we've played a lot of good minutes," Dubois said, according to The Columbus Dispatch. "It's just trying to keep going in that direction."
Special teams have played a key part in the Blue Jackets' recent success. They've converted four of their eight power-play chances in the last three games after going 0 of 20 in five games before that, and they killed off all four Dallas power plays on Monday. When the Jackets score a power-play goal this season, they're 6-0-1.
"Our penalty kill has done a really good job for us, the power play too," Dubois told reporters. "That was a struggle at the start of the year, but we're getting cured right now."
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky also is starting to pick up his game. He has given up just one goal in five of his last six starts, including the 26-save outing against the Stars.