The Panthers wrapped up a rather rough left coast swing where they ended up splitting the four-game trip. It was a frustrating one because they could have won each of those games but failed to do so.
On the bright side, they ended on a 5-3 win against the Anaheim Ducks and carry that mojo into the five-game home stand that kicks off tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town.
For a Cats team experiencing some regression, injury, and suspension issues, this will be a big test. The teams that will be visiting town are no slouches:
11/9: Carolina Hurricanes
11/12: Edmonton Oilers
11/15: Washington Capitals
11/17: Dallas Stars
11/19: Calgary Flames
The good news is that Florida is expected to get Patric Hornqvist and Aaron Ekblad back “sooner rather than later.” I’m guessing at some point during the next five games at home? It will be good to get Hornqvist’s greasy style back in the lineup and get Ekblad back on the blueline to help the backend keep churning. With a red-hot Montour, this defensive corps has been playing pretty well (can’t believe I’m saying that). Monty has an impressive nine points (3G, 6A) in his last seven games.
But it goes beyond the hot stick for Montour. Per coach Maurice:
"With Aaron going down, Monty's stepped up defensively, too. He and Forsling play against the other team's best. I think he's building a patience into his game to find the right time to jump in and the right time to get active. He'll find his points increase doing it that way."
I couldn’t agree more on the part about knowing when to jump into the play. One of my biggest issues with Monty’s play over the past couple seasons has always been his proclivity to join the rush and get down below the goal line in the offensive zone and being unable to get back to his position. It would drive me nuts. But we have seen a big change in his play as of late, and I have no doubt in my mind that that has to do with being paired with Forsling. I’ve said it before, Forsling is the not only the best defenseman the Panthers have, but I believe he’s the most intelligent. He knows when to pick his spots to skate it up and join the attack and when not to. He also has the ability to quickly get back.
Let’s hope Monty and Verhaege (six goals in his last seven games) can keep their sticks hot because the Hurricanes are coming to Florida boasting an 8-3-1 record; good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division (right behind a strong/fun to watch Devils team).
Per Florida’s website
“Closing out last week, the Hurricanes saw their four-game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Martin Necas leads Carolina in assists (10) and points (17). Sebastian Aho is second in points (15) and Andrei Svechnikov is third in points (14) and first in goals (8). Earning the bulk of the starts in net, Frederik Andersen has gone 5-3-0 with a .891 save percentage. Last season, the Panthers won all three of their matchups against the Hurricanes by a combined score of 12-7.“
This is a different Florida team than last year’s run-and-gun group, so tonight should be a real battle.
The Cats will kickoff this home ice stand without Matthew Tkachuk, who is serving the final game of his two-game suspension, after poking/high-sticking Jonathan Quick’s mask with his stick in the third period of Florida’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings last Saturday.
Stay safe out there, Cats fans. Looks like the weather is going to hit pretty hard.