Panthers begin eight-game homestand against Blackhawks
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers, in dire need of a home game, will get just that on Saturday night when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the BB&T Center.
Counting Chicago, Florida will now play eight straight home games, and time in the Sunshine State is needed, according to coach Bob Boughner.
"We've been on the road 30 of the first 40 days this season," said Boughner, whose Panthers concluded a six-game road trip on Friday night with a 4-1 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes. "That includes a European trip thrown in there. But there's no time to dwell on excuses."
Friday's game ended a 2-4-0 Panthers trip that was a disaster for reasons that go beyond the four losses. The Panthers on Monday also lost second-line center Vincent Trocheck, an All-Star in 2017, to a broken ankle. He is expected to miss at least a couple of months and possibly the rest of the season.
In addition, the Panthers on Friday lost starting goalie Roberto Luongo to an injury for the second time this season. Luongo is said to be day to day, but backup James Reimer is expected to start against Chicago, and Michael Hutchinson could be called up from their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost 4-2 on Friday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning, getting one goal each from Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov.
The goal by Anisimov, his third of the season, is a positive sign for the Blackhawks, who are top-heavy on offense.
Patrick Kane has 12 goals this season and Toews has 11, including a six-game points streak. Alex DeBrincat has nine goals and Brandon Saad has seven.
But beyond those four forwards, no one else has more than three goals.
As a result, Chicago has scored an average of just 1.8 goals in the past 13 games.
Blackhawks losses have piled up during that stretch as the team has gone 2-8-3 heading into the game against the Panthers.
"We're hurting for offense right now," Kane said. "You take it upon yourself as a player who is supposed to score and produce. It would be nice to be able to do that more often."
It would be also nice to get more secondary scoring, something Chicago has yet to establish this season.
The Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cup titles this decade -- 2010, 2013 and 2015 -- lack depth and overall team speed. They fired coach Joel Quenneville on Nov. 6 and the new boss, Jeremy Colliton, has had similar issues with a flawed roster.
As for the Panthers, winger Mike Hoffman's franchise-record 17-game points streak ended Friday.
In addition, Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov played 22:33 -- tops among Florida's forwards -- as Boughner tried in vain to make up for the loss of Trocheck.
"You never want to use (Barkov) that much," Boughner said. "We have a back-to-back situation against Chicago.
"But 'Barky' is an elite athlete. He's in great condition. I think he will be fine (against Chicago). But when you are missing someone like (Trocheck), you have to double up someone's minutes.
"I thought (Nick Bjugstad) did a decent job at center filling in on that second line."
Asked about going home, finally, after being so road weary, Boughner sighed.
"It's a relief," he said. "It's been a long month."
Updated November 23, 2018