Preview: Florida at Ottawa
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, January 7, 2016
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
Teenage defenseman Aaron Ekblad will join grizzled veterans Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo at the 2016 All-Star Game as representatives of the red-hot Florida Panthers. The mix of burgeoning talent and experience has been a big reason the Panthers lead the Atlantic Division and can extend their franchise-record winning streak to 11 games when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.
The 19-year-old Ekblad has scored five goals while posting an impressive plus-15 rating over the last 19 games while Jagr tops the team in scoring (29 points) and Luongo has yielded 10 goals during a personal eight-game winning streak. Ottawa, which is one of only three teams to beat Florida since Thanksgiving, will attempt to end the Panthers’ run after snapping a three-game slide with a 3-2 overtime victory at St. Louis on Monday. Bobby Ryan scored two goals, including the 200th of his career, after the Senators were shut out in their previous two contests. Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson, who leads all NHL defensemen in scoring, also was named to the All-Star Game on Wednesday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Florida, TSN5, RDS (Ottawa)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (24-12-4): Jagr has recorded a team-best 14 goals and gotten plenty of help from his linemates – 20-year-old center Aleksander Barkov and 22-year-old left wing Jonathan Huberdeau. Barkov has posted five goals and seven assists during the 10-game winning streak and has a plus-12 rating while Huberdeau has recorded multiple points in four of his last seven contests. The Panthers have been pocketing victories despite a power play that has gone 2-for-26 over the last six games.
ABOUT THE SENATORS (19-15-6): Ottawa expects to get Milan Michalek back in the lineup Thursday after the veteran missed the last 16 games with a fractured finger, and defenseman Cody Ceci (upper body) could return after skipping the past six contests. Karlsson has been stuck on nine goals for the last six games but has collected 33 assists to lead the way for a team that has six players with at least 29 points. Mika Zibanejad (23 points) took a stick to the face Monday but is expected to play against Florida.
1. Ottawa G Craig Anderson, who is expected to start, is 12-4-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average and three shutouts against Florida.
2. Florida coach Gerard Gallant will lead the Atlantic Division team in the new format of the All-Star Game.
3. Senators LW Mike Hoffman has scored two goals in the last four games to push his team-leading total to 19.
PREDICTION: Senators 4, Panthers 3