SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers will look to stay hot on home ice when they kick off a three-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday.
Sitting at 11-5-1 in the standings, the Panthers have gone 6-1-0 in their own barn.
“I think it’ll be fun,” forward Carter Verhaeghe said. “We’ll be energized coming back and playing in front of our home fans. You want to get off to a good start and play the right way.”
Winning six of their last seven games, the Panthers claimed four out of a possible six points on their recent road trip through California, which concluded with a 2-1 win at Anaheim on Friday.
Eetu Luostarinen and Oliver Ekman-Larsson each scored against the Ducks, while Anthony Stolarz stopped 34 shots – including 15 in the third period – to record his second win of the trip.
Getting a boost on the back end, Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour both returned to action for the Panthers after missing the first 16 games of the season. Additionally, Jonah Gadjovich, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers in October, also made his season debut in the win.
“I thought we did a good job up to the point until they got back, and now it’s going to make our group even stronger,” said Ekman-Larsson, who leads the team’s blueliners in goals (5), assists (6) and point (11). “It’s nice to have those two guys back. It’s nice to have them on your side, too. I’ve been playing against them [over the last few years]. They’re really good hockey players.”
Unfortunately, the Panthers did not escape the Golden State unscathed.
After being the victim of a knee-on-knee hit from Ducks defenseman Jackson LaCombe less than a minute into the third period, captain Aleksander Barkov left the ice and did not return. On Sunday, Panthers head coach Paul Maurice announced that the injury is considered day to day.
“It was directly on the knee,” Maurice said of the incident. “It was soft tissue. It wasn’t a bone bruise. We got lucky. We just got lucky with it because those are dangerous, dangerous plays.”
In Barkov’s absence, Anton Lundell is expected to see increased responsibility against the Oilers. Coming off one of his best games of the season, the 22-year-old Finn, who dished out the primary assist on both of Florida’s goals in Anaheim, will center the team’s top line tonight.
Over 17 games, Lundell has logged one goal and seven assists.
“He’s definitely grown a lot,” Verhaeghe said. “You can tell he has the skill and the mind for the game. He’s a really smart player. I think he makes good plays all over the ice. It’s crazy to be that young and have three years under your belt of experience and to go there [Stanley Cup] Final.”
Stumbling out of the gate, the Oilers are currently in seventh place in the Pacific Division with a record of 5-10-1. Despite having two of the top offensive talents in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton ranks just 21st in the NHL with an average of 2.94 goals per game.
That being said, the team’s 30th-ranked defense has likely been the bigger issue.
After enduring a four-game losing streak, the Oilers won three straight games before suffering a 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday. Leading 3-2 heading into the third period, Edmonton gave up four goals in the third period, with three of them coming within the first 11 minutes.
Draisaitl leads the Oilers in scoring with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists), while Zach Hyman has scored the most goals (8). Off to an uncharacteristically slow start, McDavid, who won the Hart Trophy with an eye-popping 153 points last season, has registered just 13 points in 14 games.
But given their immense talent on paper, the Panthers know Edmonton will turn a corner soon.
They just hope it’s not tonight.
“I think they’re third in expected goals,” Maurice said. “They’re going to put up an awful lot of opportunity. They are just waiting to break out. You just don’t want to be the team they do on. They’ve had a very, very difficult start, but there’s too many veteran players there to expect that to continue.”
After backing up Stolarz against the Ducks, Sergei Bobrovsky will man the crease for the Panthers, while Calvin Pickard will make his first start of the season for the Oilers. Last season, Pickard played just three games in the NHL. Since 2019-20, he’s played in just 12 NHL games.
In honor of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, all fans in attendance during tonight’s game will receive purple glow thunder sticks courtesy of Baptist Health Cancer Care.
“They’re obviously a really talented team. One little mistake and they can burn you with all the talent they have. We want to stick with what we’ve been doing all year, kind of defensive minded and trying to shut it down. It’s a big challenge tonight.” – Carter Verhaeghe on the Oilers
“That’s exactly what I wanted, and it’s what they did. Being with Gus is like having your own little cheat code out there. You just give him the puck and you know you’re out of the zone. I’m blessed to be able to play with him.” – Aaron Ekblad on being reunited with Gustav Forsling
“We like our defensive game. We’ve played pretty hard defensively. It’s going to get tested here tonight, but we compete there. Our offensive numbers, we weren’t bragging about. I’m not really worried about it, but so much of generating offense in this league is getting your defense up the ice.” – Paul Maurice on the impact of getting Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour back
FIVE CATS STATS
– Florida is one of two teams in the NHL not to surrender 35 shots in a game this season.
– The Panthers rank second in the NHL in goals scored in November with 30.
– Sam Reinhart has scored six goals at home this season.
– Matthew Tkachuk has logged 25 points (10G, 15A) in 30 career games against Edmonton.
– Sergei Bobrovsky has won five of his past six starts.
PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Carter Verhaeghe – Anton Lundell – Sam Reinhart
Evan Rodrigues – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen – Kevin Stenlund – Nick Cousins
Jonah Gadjovich – Steven Lorentz – Ryan Lomberg
Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad
Niko Mikkola – Brandon Montour
Oliver-Ekman Larsson – Dmitry Kulikov
– Nov. 17: F Jonah Gadjovich recalled from AHL conditioning assignment
– Nov. 17: D Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour activated off injured reserve
– Nov. 13: F William Lockwood loaned to Charlotte (AHL)
HOW TO WATCH
When: Monday, Nov. 20 at 7 pm ET
Where: Amerant Bank Arena – Sunrise, FL
TV & Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, Bally Sports+
Radio: 790 WAXY (Dade/Broward); 1230 (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 101.7 WCZR (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Ch. 91 / App & Streaming 932; Panthers App