Preview: Arizona at Florida
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida
The Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers could get a pair of important players back in the lineup when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. First-line center Aleksander Barkov and top-four defenseman Erik Gudbranson have been skating with the team and likely are ready to return from injury as the Panthers look to extend their point streak to four games (2-0-1).
Barkov, who has recorded 35 points in 43 games, has been out since Feb. 8 with a suspected concussion while Gudbranson (upper body) has not played since Feb. 4. Florida is 2-2-1 on its six-game homestand and heads out on the road for five in a row after facing the Coyotes, who are in danger of dropping under .500 for the first time since Dec. 17. Arizona, which is 6-1-1 in its last eight meetings with the Panthers, has dropped three straight contests after suffering a 2-1 defeat at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. “I got no problem with the way we competed,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told reporters. “We just have to execute better and find ways to generate a few more chances.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona Plus, FSN Florida
ABOUT THE COYOTES (27-27-6): Jordan Martinook scored the only goal Tuesday for Arizona, which also lost at Washington 3-2 on Monday to start its five-game road trip. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson tops the team with 46 points and has registered 200 in his first 400 NHL games while Louis Domingue has kept the team in the last two contests by turning aside 65-of-70 shots. Captain Shane Doan notched an assist Tuesday and tops the team with 22 goals while Mikkel Boedker (13) has gone nine games without a tally.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (34-18-7): While Barkov and Gudbranson may be back in uniform, top-line left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (40 points) likely will be out after suffering an upper-body injury in the 3-1 win over Winnipeg on Saturday. Jaromir Jagr, who was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday, has scored three goals in his last two contests to move into third place on the all-time list with 742. Jagr leads the way with 43 points for Florida, which has struggled on the power play (1-for-21) over its last seven games.
1. Arizona D Michael Stone has collected a goal and six assists while posting a plus-4 rating in his last seven games.
2. Florida G Roberto Luongo is on track for his best save percentage (.925) since 2010-11, when he finished at .928.
3. The Coyotes are 0-for-10 on the power play during their three-game losing streak, dropping to 14th in the league (18.7 percent).
PREDICTION: Panthers 4, Coyotes 2