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Reply To: NHL • Saturday Service Plays • 2/20/16

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Preview: Winnipeg at Florida

When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, February 20, 2016
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

The focus for the Florida Panthers is to hold serve atop the Atlantic Division until several key injured players return to the ice, and that mindset is working as they enter Saturday’s home contest against the Winnipeg Jets hoping to earn points for the third consecutive game. Despite a rash of injuries that has sidelined several important performers, the Panthers won in a shootout Monday against Pittsburgh before earning a point in a shootout loss Thursday against San Jose.

“I would have loved to have won the game in overtime or the shootout, but we got a big point tonight,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant told reporters after the game, in which 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr joined Gordie Howe as the only forwards that old to score in an NHL game. The Jets had a forgettable experience on the other side of the Sunshine State Thursday, scoring four unanswered goals in a dizzying third period at Tampa Bay before falling in a shootout 6-5. “I love the way we competed,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice – who only saw the first two periods before being ejected – told the media afterward. “I challenged them, and they responded.” The Jets are 3-2-1 in their past six games but sit 10 points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet (Winnipeg), FSN Florida (Florida)

ABOUT THE JETS (25-28-4): Winnipeg was leveled by three goals in the final 4:22 of the first period Thursday and trailed 4-1 early in the third before forward Andrew Ladd led the rally with two goals – including a short-handed tally – and center Mark Scheifele picked up a goal and an assist as the Jets scored four times in 8:39. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made 21 saves in his third consecutive start since missing three months with a knee injury after surrendering only three goals total in his first two games. Center Bryan Little left the game late in the second period after a hit to the head and Maurice drew a bench minor for arguing before being tossed just before the start of the third.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (33-18-7): Jagr continues to lead Florida’s charge to the top of the division and second place in the Eastern Conference, moving within one goal of Brett Hull for third place on the NHL’s all-time list with his 740th career tally (18th this season). Injuries are the biggest concern at the moment as Florida placed center Brandon Pirri on injured reserve Thursday with an ankle injury while center Aleksander Barkov (upper-body injury) and defenseman Erik Gudbranson (concussion) missed their seventh and fifth consecutive games, respectively. Goaltender Al Montoya has made back-to-back starts for the first time all season, recording 17 saves Thursday – including three in overtime.


1. Ladd’s second goal Thursday marked the 200th of his NHL career and the Jets’ captain is fourth on the franchise’s all-time goals list with 137.

2. The Panthers recalled D Michael Matheson and F Kyle Rau from Portland of the AHL Friday, sending down F John McFarland and D Brent Regner.

3. Winnipeg plays three of its next four away from home before opening a five-game homestand March 1 against the Panthers.

PREDICTION: Panthers 3, Jets 1