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Following a spectacular 2019 season for the Florida Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau is making a strong case for the 2020 All-Star Game with a phenomenal start.
The former third overall draft selection from the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft experienced a breakout campaign during the 2018-19 NHL season. While suiting up in all 82 regular-season games for the Florida Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau recorded a sensational slash line of 30 goals and 62 assists for 92 total points.

Simply put, the 2019 season was a historic one for Huberdeau, breaking a franchise record for the most assists in a single season with 62. Moreover, Huby was a pivotal contributor to the success of the team’s first line, forming a dynamic trio alongside Evgenii Dadonov and captain Aleksander Barkov.

Furthermore, Huberdeau was a main part of Florida’s 2nd ranked power play last season. Huberdeau registered a superb 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 total points on the man advantage last year for the Cats.

While Huberdeau certainly experienced a memorable year, a 90+ point campaign for Huby was not rewarded with a trip to the 2019 All-Star Game, unfortunately. The 26-year-old native of Quebec currently has his eyes set on a potential trip to the 2020 All-Star Game in St. Louis with a marvelous start this season.

While participating in 27 games, the longest-tenured Panther (8 seasons) has already recorded 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 total points. More impressively, despite being an integral piece on Florida’s top PP unit, all 10 of Huberdeau’s goals have been scored at even strength.

In addition, Huberdeau has also shown major improvements on the defensive end under Coach Q’s new system. While finishing the 2019 season with a -14 rating, Jonathan Huberdeau currently possesses a +3 rating during the 2020 campaign.

Also, Huberdeau’s giveaway to takeaway ratio has improved tremendously, as well. During the 2019 seasons, Huby recorded an atrocious ratio of 84 giveaways to only 43 takeaways. However, the tide has turned in 2019-20, with Huberdeau producing only 19 giveaways to 16 takeaways.

In essence, Huberdeau has developed into a polished two-way superstar at the NHL level. The 26-year-old has not even entered the prime of his career and is already shattering numerous franchise records as a member of the Florida Panthers organization.

At this current moment, Huberdeau is on pace to establish a career-high mark for most points in a season. Essentially, Huby is currently playing at a 100+ point pace, forming an elite dynamic duo alongside two-way superstar Aleksander Barkov.

Quite frankly, not only does Barkov deserve a spot on the 2020 All-Star Game roster for the Atlantic Division, but Jonathan Huberdeau most certainly deserves to join his linemate. Huberdeau is currently leading the Cats in total points with 33, producing more points than Sasha Barkov, thus far.

Considering Jonathan Huberdeau has never been selected to participate in an NHL All-Star Game, the 2020 All-Star classic should be the first of many in the tremendous career of Huberdeau. The former Calder Trophy winner has helped guide the Florida Panthers to the second seed in the Atlantic Division, hence demonstrating that Huby’s individual success directly correlates with team success.

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Même s’il l’a invité à jeter les gants à plusieurs occasions, Mike Hoffman n’a pas convaincu son ancien coéquipier des Sénateurs d’Ottawa Erik Karlsson, dimanche soir, lors du premier duel entre les deux hommes depuis leur départ de la capitale fédérale.

En juin 2018, la femme de Karlsson, Melinda, a demandé à la Cour de l’Ontario une ordonnance de protection contre la fiancée de Hoffman, Monika Caryk, alléguant qu’elle l’aurait harcelée et intimidée sur le web à de nombreuses reprises. Elle avançait même que Caryk avait souhaité la mort de l’enfant qu’elle portait. L’enfant était mort-né en mars.

Hoffman et sa conjointe ont nié ces accusations, mais quelques jours plus tard, le joueur était échangé aux Sharks de San Jose, qui l’envoyaient à leur tour aux Panthers de la Floride. Trois mois plus tard, ce fut au tour de Karlsson d’être refilé à l’équipe de la Californie.

Dimanche, c’était les grandes retrouvailles, lorsque les Sharks étaient de passage en Floride.

«Je pensais à ce duel depuis longtemps», a dit Hoffman au site internet The Athletic après l’affrontement.

«Je lui ai demandé s’il voulait se battre et il ne voulait évidemment pas, a poursuivi l’attaquant. Je lui ai couru après durant ma première présence sur la glace, je n’arrêtais pas de lui demander. Il ne voulait rien savoir. Il n’arrêtait pas de me dire: “Je ne me battrai pas avec toi”.»

S’il n’a pas obtenu la chance de faire parler ses poings, Hoffman a obtenu une mention d’aide dans un gain de 5 à 1 de ses Panthers.

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After deciding to keep pending UFA Mike Hoffman on the roster to start the season,there have been multiple differing opinions on about his value to the team.
There’s a lot of great things about Mike Hoffman‘s game as a Florida Panther. Led the team in power-play goals, held a massive point streak in his first month with the team, and has one of the loudest slapshots in the NHL. Since arriving, he’s been a massive part of the power play that ranked 2nd in the NHL last season.

There’s also a good amount of questionable things about Hoff’s play. He’s not the fastest skater, doesn’t use his size as well as a lot of others his frame, and shows a consistent struggle to contribute at even strength.

Personally, I’ve gone through a lot of different opinions on Hoffman. At times, I’ve had to appreciate how much work he’s done for the Panthers’ power play, whether it was him scoring or just providing an option. Others points, usually when the Panthers are struggling, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch Hoffman’s little creativity at even strength.

Hoffman, unlike Aleksander Barkov or Evgenii Dadonov, doesn’t really create his own shot effectively. He doesn’t have much of a go-to move when isolated, but rather creating space off the puck and waiting for a perfect saucer pass to clock into the top shelf.

In 108 games as a Panther, Hoffman has produced an impressive 88 points, with 46 of those being goals. Since the start of last season, that is the most goals out of any Panthers player in that time frame, with Barkov’s 42 as a close second.

While that’s one way to look at it, you also have to look at the points shares between 5v5 and 5v4/5v3. Out of Hoffman’s 88 points, 42 of them have been on the power play, the most amongst forwards since Hoffman’s debut. Keith Yandle‘s 50 points top Hoff’s 42, however, Yandle has only had eight goals amongst those 50 points, whereas Hoffman has 22 power-play goals.

So, there’s a clear sign that Hoffman is much more of a threat on the man advantage in comparison to 5v5, but even still, he’s scored the most goals amongst Panthers since he joined. That continues to raise the question, how do you value him?

He’s played on three lines since joining the Panthers, showing he has too much talent compared to the third liners, but not being able to consistently play with Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on the top line. Hoffman has typically played on the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Frank Vatrano (or Brett Connolly this season).

With all that considered, a glaring problem with Hoffman at the moment is that he is a pending UFA. With the Panthers having to pay both Hoffman and Dadonov this off-season, it seems more likely Dadonov will be the one who is extended.

With players like Kevin Hayes getting $8 million, it’s likely that both Hoffman and Dadonov, both 30, will look for around that same price tag. The Panthers will likely have around $12.4 million in free cap space with Jayce Hawryluk and Mark Pysyk coming off the books, and it’s very unlikely that Hoffman and Dadonov will call it even and take $6 million each.

With that, it makes Hoffman expendable, to an extent. If Florida can dangle him to a team in need of goalscoring in exchange for a decent defenseman, Dale Tallon could consider pulling the trigger. Trading Hoffman, someone who’s shown he can put together a consistent point streak at any time, might not be a good idea for a team that wants to make a deep playoff run.

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Thursday night, the Cardiac Cats made their dramatic return, erasing their second 4-0 deficit in a matter of two weeks in a 5-4 OT win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Let’s be clear, the Florida Panthers were nowhere near their best. The comeback win was very impressive, but it’s not a game that this team can play consistently and expect to pull off results.

It’s highly improbable, there have only been four games in which a team has overcome a four-goal gap to earn a win. The Florida Panthers have done it twice.

It came with logical lineup changes and some selfless passing, but Florida somehow got the job done, scoring five goals in a span of 24:00 to defeat the Ducks on home ice. For the first 36:00, however, the Panthers should not be proud of how they played.

It was a kind of game that Anaheim wanted to play, and Joel Quenneville‘s team were surprisingly being not just out-played, but out-coached. The game was very narrow, neither team really spreading the puck out in the neutral zone, but rather staying condensed, patient, defensive. This is not how the Florida Panthers win games, but for the Ducks, they were quite content with the pace.

It showed on the scoreboard, too. Four goals unanswered left Florida in a deep hole with less than 2:00 to go in the second. Brett Connolly‘s quickfire two goals might’ve been the spark of the comeback, but it wasn’t anything different from how the Panthers had been playing. The real change came coming out of the locker room, heading into the final 20.

In previous years of coaching, the Florida Panthers have been very gung-ho to making drastic changes when facing a huge lead. Tom Rowe and Bob Boughner are both equally as guilty to messing with all four lines over one intermission. Players like Mike Hoffman would go through three lines in one game in an effort to make something work.

Now, Joel Quenneville knows what he has in his players, and knows how to get the best out of them. Instead of trashing the first line because they’d been held scoreless by putting someone like Connolly on it, Quenneville made just one change; Frank Vatrano to line two, Mike Hoffman to line three.

The change didn’t seem too meaningful but was a stroke of genius. While he didn’t get any points in the 3rd period or OT period, Vatrano was electric in this comeback. Vatrano laid hit after hit and started chasing the pucks deep in the Anaheim zone, something Florida did very little of in the first two periods.

Anaheim’s first goal of the game came off an extended shift in which the Panthers’ forwards eventually lost focus and left Max Jones wide open at the side of the net. Florida’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th goals all came on extended shifts, moving around in the zone, and catching the Ducks napping.

Before we get too much into the goals, two players deserve some immense credit for keeping the Ducks at bay; Mike Matheson and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Matheson, who is usually to blame on a nightly basis for a goal, was really impressive at getting back in defense. He made a great play on Derek Grant in the second period (even though Denis Malgin would trip Grant seven seconds later, leading to ANA’s third goal) to poke the puck free on a potential breakaway. In the third, he did that same thing, stripping Troy Terry of the puck when he could have iced the game.

For Bobrovsky, it’s pretty straightforward. Look at the stats tonight, you’ll think he struggled again, but see how three of the four goals really weren’t his fault (Jones wide open in the slot, Jakob Silfverberg screening the goalie on Rickard Rakell‘s power-play goal, and Keith Yandle‘s giveaway leading to Ondrej Kase‘s unassisted goal). Yet again, Bobrovsky was immense in the fourth period, saving all 12 shots on goal to keep Florida alive.

For certain, however, this comeback does not happen without Aaron Ekblad. He has been, to put it lightly, fantastic under Joel Quenneville. His defense looks improved, he’s smarter with the puck, and he finally got to flash some of his two-way value, getting two goals and a primary assist to lead the Cats’ charge.

He won the first star of the night, getting the game-winning goal and primary assist to Dominic Toninato‘s game-tying goal, but it still just doesn’t say enough about his game. He was great defensively, the only time he gave up a goal was Yandle’s giveaway, he kept multiple plays alive with his effort, and was rewarded handsomely. Also, the celebration on the game-winner was sick.

It all comes with one thing: confidence. Under Rowe, Ekblad suffered a bad concussion, in which he was rushed back into the lineup, and played well below his standard. Under Boughner, Ekblad was constantly put into bad situations and really began to lack courage on a nightly basis.

Now, Ekblad has transformed back into 2015-16 all-star Ekblad. 23:30 of time on ice, the most amongst all Panthers, two blocks, three shots on goal (two goals, one which led to a goal), two blocks, three points, arguably the best game of his career.

As I said in the beginning, the Panthers cannot continuously play like this. Coming back from 4-0 down is so improbable, there have only been four seasons in which teams have come back from 4+ goals more than three times. This is the first time of this century there have been four 4+ goal comebacks.

The Panthers, however, deserve some massive praise for this. For a team to play as bad as they did, yet still find a way to win isn’t just the sign of a good team, but a sign of champions.

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Le gardien des Panthers de la Floride Chris Driedger ne pouvait pas espérer un meilleur dénouement pour son premier départ dans la Ligue nationale de hockey (LNH), samedi soir, face aux Predators de Nashville.

L’homme masqué de 25 ans a repoussé l’ensemble des 27 rondelles dirigées sur son filet et sa formation l’a emporté au compte de 3 à 0.

«Honnêtement, je suis sans mots, a indiqué Driedger au site internet de la LNH après sa brillante performance. C’était un long chemin. Ils m’ont dit que j’amorcerais le match d’hier [vendredi]. J’étais vraiment nerveux au début, mais une fois que la rondelle est tombée, je me suis senti bien.»

«C’est incroyable, a-t-il poursuivi. Tous les tirs que je voyais, j’étais en mesure de les arrêter. Si je ne les voyais pas, ils [mes coéquipiers] les bloquaient. Ils ont fait un travail impressionnant en avant de moi.»

Un parcours sinueux

Ce n’était cependant pas la première fois que Driedger gardait les buts dans le circuit Bettman, puisque lors de son passage avec les Sénateurs d’Ottawa, il a été appelé en relève à trois occasions, et ce, lors de trois campagnes différentes.

Le natif de Winnipeg et son équipement ont cependant beaucoup voyagé depuis. En effet, le gardien a porté l’uniforme de neuf équipes depuis le début de sa carrière professionnelle en 2013-2014. Il a d’ailleurs joué pour cinq formations de la Premier AA League (ECHL).

Driedger a amorcé son parcours dans l’organisation des Panthers lorsqu’il a signé un contrat de deux saisons en février 2019. Cette saison, il a été dominant avec les Thunderbirds de Springfield dans la Ligue américaine, maintenant une moyenne de buts alloués de 2,09 et un taux d’efficacité de ,938.

Un message à Sergei Bobrovsky

Si les statistiques de Driedger lui ont permis d’obtenir un premier départ dans la LNH, les malheurs du gardien Sergei Bobrovsky peuvent également expliquer que l’on soit à la recherche de solutions en Floride.

Le Russe, qui possède un contrat de sept ans d’une valeur totale de 70 M$, détient le deuxième pire pourcentage d’arrêts (,884) de la LNH. En 21 matchs, il a aussi maintenu une moyenne de buts alloués de 3,48.

Bobrovsky devait initialement obtenir le départ contre les Panthers, mais l’entraîneur-chef Joel Quenneville en a décidé autrement après la piètre performance de son numéro 1 contre les Capitals de Washington, mercredi.

«C’était un match où nous avons bien joué et nous avions besoin de quelques arrêts pour l’emporter», avait dit le pilote lors de la conférence de presse suivant ce revers de 4 à 3.

Reste maintenant à voir si le blanchissage de Driedger donnera un certain sentiment d’urgence à Bobrovsky.

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Expect Evgenii Dadonov to be a reliable fantasy starter the rest of the season. His 119 projected fantasy points puts him at #9 behind Mark Stone and ahead of Johnny Gaudreau. He has averaged 2.12 fantasy points in his past 113 games, which is less than our projected per game average. He is projected to average 2.42 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#11) is worse than his rank based on total fantasy points. He is underrated if you compare his ownership based rank with his projection rank. At 96%, he is the #14 most highly owned right wing. Evgenii Dadonov is expected to improve on this season-to-date’s #16 fantasy position rank.

#7 Teuvo Teravainen (98% OWN) 139 FP, 2.9 per game 216 FP, 82 gp, 2.63 per game (#11)
#8 Mark Stone (99% OWN) 128 FP, 2.78 per game 209 FP, 77 gp, 2.71 per game (#9)
#9 Evgenii Dadonov (96% OWN) 119 FP, 2.42 per game 172 FP, 82 gp, 2.1 per game (#21)
#10 Johnny Gaudreau (100% OWN) 118 FP, 2.57 per game 264 FP, 82 gp, 3.22 per game (#6)
#11 Matt Duchene (93% OWN) 116 FP, 2.31 per game 178 FP, 73 gp, 2.44 per game (#14)
These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

Evgenii Dadonov is projected for 2.18 fantasy points in one game the rest of the week in week 11 which ranks him as the #37 projected right wing for the week and a starter for most fantasy teams. This is projected to be a slightly below average game with fewer fantasy points than he is projected to average per game the rest of the season. He is ranked above Jakob Silfverberg but behind Luke Kunin the rest of the week. Week 12 will be better based on projected rank (#15). He is projected for 7.27 fantasy points.

#35 Josh Bailey (52% OWN) 2.2 FP, 1 GP 1.98 FP
#36 Luke Kunin (5% OWN) 2.19 FP, 2 GP 1.03 FP
#37 Evgenii Dadonov (96% OWN) 2.18 FP, 1 GP 2.42 FP
#38 Jakob Silfverberg (70% OWN) 2.15 FP, 1 GP 2.01 FP
#39 Sam Reinhart (82% OWN) 2.06 FP, 1 GP 2.39 FP
#13 Brock Boeser (99% OWN) 7.4 FP, 3 GP 2.32 FP
#14 Johnny Gaudreau (100% OWN) 7.3 FP, 3 GP 2.57 FP
#15 Evgenii Dadonov (96% OWN) 7.3 FP, 3 GP 2.42 FP
#16 Sam Reinhart (82% OWN) 7.1 FP, 3 GP 2.39 FP
#17 T.J. Oshie (95% OWN) 7.1 FP, 3 GP 2.36 FP
The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Also included are actual stats from the current and last season.

Rest of ’19-20 119 43.2 20.1 23.0 135 5.3
– Per Game (49 Proj) 2.42 0.88 0.41 0.47 2.75 0.11
12/9 to 12/15 (1 Game) 2.18 0.84 0.39 0.45 2.59 0.10
12/16 to 12/22 (3 Games) 7.3 2.62 1.22 1.40 7.9 0.32
’19-20 Season 68 24 12 12 81 5
– Per Game (31 GP) 2.18 0.77 0.39 0.39 2.61 0.16
’18-20 Seasons 240 94 40 54 276 13
– Per Game (113 GP) 2.12 0.83 0.35 0.48 2.44 0.12

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WASHINGTON — Brett Connolly couldn’t help thinking back to his time with the Washington Capitals during the previous two days.

Connolly returned to Washington for the first time since signing with the Florida Panthers as unrestricted free agent on July 1 and scored a goal in a 4-3 loss to the Capitals at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.

The memories came back easily while retelling stories during dinner with some of his former teammates at Washington forward Tom Wilson’s home on Tuesday. Connolly relived some of them again during the video tribute that played on the Capital One Arena scoreboard during the first television timeout Wednesday.

“I owe a lot to these guys, these fans and the coaches,” Connolly said. “I’ve said it a million times before, but I do.”

Winning the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018 helped Connolly forge some lifelong bonds and the 27-year-old forward will forever appreciate the career-changing three seasons he spent with Washington. But Connolly has quickly settled into his new life with the Panthers.

He leads Florida with 12 goals in 25 games, including six in his past six games, and is fitting in seamlessly with his new teammates. He’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with several of them at defenseman Keith Yandle’s home Thursday.

Connolly’s breakaway goal
00:36 • November 28th, 2019

The Panthers begin a nine-game homestand, their longest since entering the NHL in 1993, when they host the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-F, FS-TN, NHL.TV)

“It’s been a very easy transition,” Connolly said. “The coaching staff, the teammates have been a very comfortable group to come in and be myself. I’m getting a good opportunity here and it’s been a good start to the season for me.”

On pace for a 39-goal season, Connolly’s fast start with Florida is a carryover from 2018-19, when he set NHL career-highs with 22 goals, 24 assists and 46 points in 81 regular-season games playing mostly on Washington’s third line. With the Capitals having limited salary cap space to re-sign him and unable to provide the top-six forward role he was seeking, Connolly capitalized on his career season by signing a four-year contract with the Panthers, who were looking to add scoring depth and experience.

He’s thriving at left wing on the second line with center Vincent Trocheck and right wing Denis Malgin, helping Florida get off to a 12-8-5 start. Connolly is fifth on the Panthers with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists), putting him on pace to finish with 62.

“He’s been really good for us. His production has been very good for us,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s got a deceptive shot, can play on the power play. He’s scored some big goals for us, timely goals. He added some size (6-foot-3, 192 pounds) to our team as well, and he has the puck a lot.”

Connolly joined Florida as a different player than the one who arrived who arrived in Washington as an unrestricted free agent in 2016 after the Boston Bruins chose not to make him a qualifying offer to retain his restricted free agent rights. Selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the No. 6 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Connolly struggled to live up to his high draft position and was traded to Boston on March 2, 2015, for second-round picks in the 2015 and 2016 NHL Drafts.

Connolly’s second of the game
00:33 • November 22nd, 2019

The Bruins gave up on Connolly after he had 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 71 games in 2015-16, and he knew he was running out of opportunities when he signed with the Capitals.

“I was at a crossroads before I came here, there’s no question,” Connolly said. “Kind of like this group [with Florida], right away I was welcomed in and I was comfortable, and the coaching staff just let me play and let me have fun with it. There was no pressure. I just played and it was a really good environment over there to work on your game and be comfortable.”

Bouncing between the third and fourth lines, Connolly scored an NHL career-high 15 goals and had 23 points in 66 games in 2016-17. He followed that with 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 70 regular-season games in 2017-18 and had nine points (six goals, three assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help Washington win its first championship since entering the NHL in 1974. Included in that total was an assist on Lars Eller’s winning goal in the Capitals’ clinching 4-3 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

“He became confident in what his game was, and he was just using his abilities to his strengths, using his shot and getting confident in how he needed to play to score goals,” Eller said. “I think he really built that here the last couple years and I’m not surprised to see he’s doing well. He always had the talent.”

In addition to playing a larger role at 5-on-5 and seeing increased power-play time (1:27 per game, up from 56 seconds), Connolly is enjoying having a leadership role with a transitioning team looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“I knew that opportunity was going to be out there, and they’ve definitely given me that,” Connolly said. “I’m a little older. We’ve got a little younger team here and, especially in Washington, everybody was older than me here. It’s a little different (with Florida); a little more responsibility for me, a little more weight on my shoulders to produce and be a consistent player. It’s been a good change, for sure.”

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ISLANDERS (20-7-2) at PANTHERS (15-10-5)

7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+, NHL.TV

The Game
The New York Islanders will look to complete a season sweep of the Florida Panthers when they meet at BB&T Center on Thursday.

The Islanders, 4-2-0 in their past six games, won 3-2 in a shootout at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12 and 2-1 at Barclays Center on Nov. 9.

Goalie Thomas Greiss will start for New York; he’s 1-3-0 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in his past four starts after winning his previous eight starts.

The Panthers look for their fourth victory in six games (3-2-0) following a three-game losing streak. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will make his fourth consecutive start after stopping 109 of 113 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets (4-1 win on Saturday), San Jose Sharks (5-1 win on Sunday) and Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1 loss on Tuesday).

Players to watch
Islanders forward Josh Bailey has seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past six games.

Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau has six points (one goal, five assists) in a four-game point streak.

They said it
“Both Florida teams have outstanding special teams. [The Panthers have] got some high-end guys. We can’t lose the special teams war; that’s a big advantage for them. Five-on-five we can play with anybody.” — Islanders coach Barry Trotz

“He’s been unbelievable. He’s absolutely stood on his head. We kind of let him down the other night against Tampa [Bay]. He did a great job behind us, but we’re looking to build on his big performances so far.” — Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

Islanders projected lineup
Ross Johnston — Mathew Barzal — Josh Bailey

Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Michael Dal Colle

Anders Lee — Derick Brassard — Jordan Eberle

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Noah Dobson — Johnny Boychuk

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews — Scott Mayfield

Thomas Greiss

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Leo Komarov

Injured: Nick Leddy (lower body)

Panthers projected lineup
Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman — Vincent Trocheck — Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano — Noel Acciari — Denis Malgin

Dominic Toninato — Brian Boyle — Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle — Aaron Ekblad

MacKenzie Weegar — Anton Stralman

Mark Pysyk — Josh Brown

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Mike Matheson

Injured: Jayce Hawryluk (upper body)

Status report
Leddy practiced Wednesday and took part in the morning skate Thursday but will miss a second consecutive game. Trotz said Leddy was “progressing quite well.” … Hawryluk, a center, was assigned to Springfield of the American Hockey League on a conditioning loan Monday. … Malgin will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three games. He will replace forward Aleksi Saarela, who was loaned to Springfield on Monday. … Matheson will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

Stat pack
The Islanders are 18-0-1 when scoring three or more goals. … New York has been outshot in each of its past seven games. … Florida has been assessed the fewest penalties (88) and fewest penalty minutes (204) in the NHL. … Barkov has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past six games.

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With three jersey changes, two frightening medical diagnoses and a lot of hospital visits, it’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Brian Boyle and his family. But through it all the Panthers forward has gained a new perspective both on and off the ice.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In a three-rink complex 45 minutes southwest of his hometown in Hingham, Mass., Brian Boyle practiced with the South Shore Kings. No one had offered him a contract over the summer—a bottleneck of restricted free agents froze the market for veteran players—so he worked in with his former junior team, where he had at least 10 years on the current club’s oldest player.

When Boyle, on the edge of turning 35, went unsigned as NHL training camps started ahead of the 2019–20 season, he had to make some adjustments. Longtime trainer Brian McDonagh upped anaerobic exercises to maintain strength, while Boyle replicated the rhythms and rigors of the league’s schedule by biking hard on game nights and turning in strenuous early workouts to mimic morning skates.

Two weeks into the season, the call came. The Panthers officially signed Boyle to a one-year, $940,000 contract. Joining his third team in nine months, Boyle said, “I’m not expected to be a cheerleader—I want to make a difference for the team on the ice.”

At 6’6” and 245 lbs, Boyle has carved out a role as a bottom-six grinder even as teams turn to speedier, skilled players on their third and fourth lines. He’s fought to stay in the league, just two years after he fought for his life, after it was upended by cancer.

“It scared the s*** out of me,” Boyle remembers. “I had my daughter, who was four months old, and my son [who] was not even two-and-a-half yet. It’s scary to hear those words.”

Before the preseason in August 2017, Boyle felt fatigued, so much so that he wondered whether his hockey career was coming to a close. When he underwent routine blood tests at the start of the Devils’ training camp, the results were unexpected: Boyle had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), an uncommon cancer of the bone marrow. He started treatment early, giving him the chance to return to the ice, as former NHLer Jason Blake had done before with CML.

But the whirlwind continued: Two weeks after Boyle was diagnosed with cancer, he and his wife, Lauren, took their two-year-old son, Declan, to the doctor to get his englarged, fragile chin examined. “It used to be like an eggshell,” Boyle says.

At first, the doctor thought Declan could have Ewing’s Sarcoma, an extremely rare tumor that forms in bone or soft tissue. But after a CT scan and an MRI, results showed that Declan had an arteriovenous malformation of the jaw. Instead of cancer, Boyle’s son had a rare condition where blood vessels form abnormally and arteries and veins become tangled, disrupting normal blood flow. As Boyle battled his way back onto the NHL ice, only missing 10 games and later earning an All-Star selection, Declan underwent multiple surgeries back in Boston.

“I’m not downplaying what I was diagnosed with,” Boyle says. “This is like a million times worse. We go to the Children’s Hospital in Boston and we see so many families in there and it’s the most unfair thing there is. It’s a scary thing, as a parent, you’d trade places in a minute.”

Boyle finished his 2017–18 season with 13 goals and 23 points, and was honored with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance and dedication to hockey. In just over a year, Boyle had experienced the birth of his first daughter, a brush with cancer, the learning of his son’s medical condition, and his own subsequent return to the rink. But life didn’t slow down. Boyle announced his cancer was in remission in October 2018 and Lauren was announced as a Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador soon after. A few months later, he was moved to the Predators for a second-round pick at the trade deadline. Nashville lost in six games to the Stars in the first round.

Boyle says Declan’s condition is progressing, but before Thanksgiving he had another procedure to return normal blood flow by dissolving some veins. Lauren flew up to Boston while her husband played on the road against the Capitals, with his family providing a 24/7 support system in Florida and Massachusetts.

“It’s tough for us. We thought we were over and it came back,” Boyle says. “Maybe we were starting to drive on our goal line and then we drove into red zone. Now we’re back in field goal range. We took a sack.

“It’s a lot better than it was a couple of years ago. [Declan] is great. He’s healthy, he’s eating, he’s a big boy. He’s been inspiring—that’s the best way I can put it.”


“When it comes to cancer, people don’t always want to talk about it. Unfortunately, it’s often a sad story. But it can also be an inspiring story about people who are fearless in times of adversity, people who have battled and people who are not afraid to put up a fight.” —Brian Boyle, 2014

Boyle could as well have said this about himself, but he wrote this for ESPN about someone else. One of thirteen children, Boyle wasn’t the first member of his family to overcome cancer. Artie, his father, was diagnosed with kidney cancer when Brian was 14, and eight months later it metastasized to his lung. With six months to live, Artie made pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, an unofficial Catholic holy site since the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to six teens in 1981. When he returned home, a CAT scan showed the cancer was gone.

“You’re a person that’s fighting this thing and that mental aspect of it is a huge, huge, huge thing,” Boyle says. “[Artie] talks about those dark days. You get depression, really, because you know you’re mortality is right there in front of you.”

While his cancer remains in remission, Boyle continues to take medication twice a day, but is relatively unaffected by it. In the two years since his diagnosis, he’s made visits to kids at Boston Children’s Hospital and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. He says he wants to do more—switching jerseys three times in the span of a year can get in the way—but he and Lauren have helped out with fundraisers and have met with cancer patients and survivors through community outreach efforts. He says he goes into the visits trying to talk about their interests, not their illnesses.

On the ice, Boyle hasn’t changed. He’s scored four goals and eight points and has won 57.5% of his faceoffs while centering the Panthers’ fourth line. Boyle’s leadership and veteran presence within the locker room has never wavered, and his diagnosis hasn’t affected his performance on the ice. In his 13th NHL season—and with a four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, Isabella, at home—Boyle says he feels good and that he’s going to play “until they tell me I can’t anymore.”

“I get to have a little bit more fun with it again and, if it doesn’t go right one night, I’ll still be angry, it will still be tough to go to sleep,” Boyle says. “But it’s a little easier when I get home, the kids give you a hug and they’re happy to see you, after all we’ve been through.”

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When the Florida Panthers signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in July, the hope was that the long-standing goaltending issues in Sunrise would be solved.
Bobrovsky was coming off his best-ever postseason and rebounded after a bad start in Columbus to steer the Blue Jackets to their third straight playoff appearance.

Florida also hoped that Bobrovsky’s notoriously slow starts were something he left behind in Ohio, but with a GAA of 3.53 and an .882 save percentage through 17 games and 16 starts, that hasn’t happened. What, if anything, is wrong with Bobrovsky, and what can be done to fix it?

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Charting Hockey says Sergei Bobrovsky’s goals saved above average is -11.84, by far the worst among starters in the league this year thus far. Hockey Reference is only slightly kinder, saying Bob’s GSAA is -11.76, also worst in the league among qualified netminders.

Even after the NHL adjusted their shot distance data, the numbers for Bobrovsky got no better. He’s not being bombarded with shots, though he is facing a good number of quality chances. But on average, he’s giving nearly a goal more per game than expected goals would suggest, which for a team like the Panthers who only play close games, that is the difference between winning and losing most nights.

“Obviously, I am not happy with the number of goals that have been scored,” said Bobrovsky to the Athletic after the loss to Winnipeg (Note: paywalled). What can I do right now? Every NHL season brings its own challenges and no matter how fresh you feel physically or mentally, there is going to be some adversity you have to overcome.”

Last October, Bobrovsky had an .882 save percentage and a GAA of 3.58, but turned it around in November with a .932 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA. This year, his November numbers are better than October’s, but only slightly.

Is Bobrovsky still getting used to the system around him? Does he trust the defense in front of him? Was there a style or coaching adjustment that can explain what has happened, or has he simply been played a game or two too often?

Likely, the answer falls somewhere in the middle. For all of the improvements that Joel Quenneville has made defensively, the team still has troubles with puck management in their own zone and net-front coverage hasn’t been up to par, leading to those good chances against. Outside of those defensive breakdowns, he’s still given up more than a few clunkers on a consistent basis, even as he has constantly made great saves to mask that.

His teammates and his coaches are publicly backing him, which certainly quells any notion of a goaltending controversy.

“We absolutely do,” Joel Quenneville said. “that is for sure. Players know, everyone goes through stretches where you’re at your best and other times when you’re up against it, regardless of the position. It’s magnified in goal. Just have to find your way through it and collectively, I think we all can help.”

While tightening up defensively and cutting down on mistakes would certainly help Bobrovsky’s numbers improve, perhaps this is the right time for a night or two off. He played 62 games last year, and he’s on track to perhaps go beyond that this year.

Though Sam Montembeault has had his ups and downs, he’s more than shown he’s capable of guiding the team through difficult spots, and a start not on the back end of a back-to-back might be enough to give Bobrovsky a chance to get a needed reset.

“You work hard and sometimes there are ups-and-downs, but you have to keep your focus,” Bobrovsky mentioned. “I have to be myself, keep working. … I have to play my system and trust myself and I will give these guys a chance to win.”

While Bobrovsky’s struggles are not likely to continue to this degree based on evidence from recent seasons, the Panthers cannot achieve what they set out to in a crowded East if they don’t get better play from their $10 million man. Team defense certainly needs to improve, but Bobrovsky has to as well. He knows it and his team knows it.