CORAL SPRINGS — The Florida Panthers continue to deal with positive Covid-19 tests, but going into Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars, have seen their list shrink considerably.
On Thursday, goalie Jonas Johansson was added to Covid protocol but he may be the only one.
Florida not only had Mason Marchment and Patric Hornqvist back on the ice Thursday but had Spencer Knight back Friday.
Evan Fitzpatrick, playing for Florida’s ECHL Greenveville Swamp Rabbits, was called up for Friday just in case.
With the Panthers being as healthy as they have been all season — even Noel Acciari practiced on Thursday — general manager Bill Zito is going to have to do some more shuffling.
If everyone returns Friday as expected, the Panthers have more healthy players than they have roster space.
Which is not a bad thing at all.
Andrew Brunette said Friday morning that Marchment may not play Friday which allows the Panthers to keep the roster right where it is for the time being. Brunette added if Marchment does not play Friday, he likely would Saturday against Columbus.
Acciari is not one of the players needing a spot.
At least not yet.
Still on the long-term injured reserve after a freak preseason injury against the Lightning in Orlando, Acciari played among the defensemen on Thursday due to the Panthers having so many healthy forwards.
MacKenzie Weegar, for one, was impressed by Acciari’s defensive acumen.
“Ten out of 10,” Weegar said. “He steps up in the middle, holds guys accountable. He’s got a great stick. Maybe he’s got a job on the back end helping the boys out. … He’s such a big part to our team. It was all smiles when we saw him out there.’’
Said Andrew Brunette: “I don’t think he’d ever played defense,” Brunette chuckled. “We wanted to get him moving.”
Acciari, who had surgery but has been skating for some time, is not expected back perhaps until after the March trade deadline although Brunette said he could return next month.
Brunette added that Acciari will likely travel on the team’s upcoming (maybe) road trip to western Canada and continue practicing with the team.
“It was great to see him on the ice,” Brunette said. “I think he’s ahead of schedule.”
— Carter Verhaeghe was missing from practice on Thursday with Brunette saying it was simply a maintenance day.
He is expected to return to the top line with Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart on Friday.
— Hornqvist was back in his spot on the right side of the fourth line along with Eetu Luostarinen and Ryan Lomberg.
With Florida playing Columbus on Saturday night, Joe Thornton could get back in the lineup for that game.
— Mason Marchment is back — and the Panthers are thrilled. Marchment has only played three games since Nov. 8 due to an injury and then a positive Covid test.
— With Sergei Bobrovsky and the team’s emergency backup goalie the only netminders at practice on Thursday, one can assume Bobrovsky gets the start Friday against the Stars.
And so he will.
Bobrovsky was on his game Tuesday, stopping 42 of 44 shots in the 5-2 win against Vancouver.
“He was as sharp as I’ve seen him,’’ Brunette said. “He was outstanding. He made some huge saves in crucial moments. He’s been great all year for us. It’s nice to see him have some fun.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
- NHL Betting Odds from FanDuel: Florida favored (Puck Line -1.5 +118) — (Money Line -220) — Over/Under 6.5 (-102/-120)
- Last season: Florida won 6-2
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 23-19-2, 3 ties
- This season: @Dallas 6, Florida 5 (SO), Jan 6
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 98 Maxim Mamin
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
4 Olli Juolevi // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Joe Thornton, Lucas Carlsson, Evan Fitzpatrick
Taxi squad: Owen Tippett, Aleksi Heponiemi
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
Covid Protocol: Jonas Johansson, Mason Marchment
PROJECTED DALLAS STARS LINEUP
21 Jason Robertson // 24 Roope Hintz // 16 Joe Pavelski
40 Jacob Peterson // 14 Jamie Benn // 91 Tyler Seguin
18 Michael Raffl // 12 Radek Faksa // 11 Luke Glendening
64 Tanner Kero // 49 Rhett Gardner // 25 Joel Kiviranta
20 Ryan Suter // 3 John Klingberg
23 Esa Lindell // 4 Miro Heiskanen
5 Andrej Sekera // 2 Jani Hakanpaa
29 Jake Oettinger
35 Anton Khudobin
Miami Marlins: Building the all-time WAR starting lineup
If you were to build the ultimate Miami Marlins starting lineup based on the all-time leaders in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) from the franchise’s history, who would fill the starting nine?
Building the Miami Marlins all-time WAR starting lineup
SP – Josh Johnson
While Dontrelle Willis also ranks within the Top 5 Marlins all-time in WAR at 20.8, the pitcher with the highest combined WAR in franchise history is Johnson, ranking third at 25.7. One of only three players in Marlins history with a 25+ WAR, Johnson spent eight season’s in the organization that included a combined 3.15 ERA, two All-Star appearances, and a NL leading 2.30 ERA in 2010.
C – JT Realmuto
Just outside of the Marlins Top 10 all-time, Realmuto ranks ninth among hitters in the franchise’s history with a combined 13.9 WAR across his five years in Miami. Slashing a combined .279/.327/.442 during that span, Realmuto was also an All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in 2018.
1B – Derrek Lee
Ranking 14th among Marlins hitters all-time with a 9.9 WAR, Lee spent six season’s in the organization from 1998-2003. Included in that span was a Gold Glove in 2003, as well as four consecutive 20+ home run season’s from 2000-03.
2B – Luis Castillo
Despite Dan Uggla also ranking within the Top 10 overall with a 15.7 WAR, Castillo ranks fourth in Marlins history with a 22.4 WAR. Included in Castillo’s 10 years with the Marlins (1996-2005) were three All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and twice leading the major leagues in stolen bases (2000 & 2002).
SS – Hanley Ramirez
Ranking second in franchise history with a 26.9 WAR, Ramirez spent seven years with the Marlins from 2006-12. Included in this span were winning the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, three All-Star appearances, two Silver Sluggers, and leading the NL with a .342 AVG in 2009.
3B – Miguel Cabrera
Sixth in Marlins history with an 18.3 WAR, Cabrera spent the first five years of his MLB career with the-then Florida Marlins (2003-07). Slashing a combined .313/.388/.542 during that span, Cabrera was selected to four All-Star teams, as well as winning two Silver Sluggers.
LF – Christian Yelich
Right behind Cabrera at seventh all-time among Marlins in WAR is Yelich who holds a combined 17.5. Included in his five season’s from 2013-17 were one Silver Slugger and one Gold Glove.
CF – Marcell Ozuna
Ranking tenth all-time among Marlins hitters in WAR is Ozuna who holds a combined 13.8. Across his five years in the organization (2013-17), Ozuna posted three 20+ home run season’s, as well as two All-Star appearances, one Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove.
RF – Giancarlo Stanton
We conclude with Stanton, the by-far Miami Marlins all-time franchise leader in WAR at 35.7. Spending eight years in the Marlins organization from 2010-17, Stanton’s accolades include the 2017 NL MVP, four All-Star appearances, and two Silver Sluggers, while also leading the NL in SLG% three times, NL in home runs twice, and leading the major leagues in home runs and RBI’s in 2017.
Miami Heat: The NBA’s most resilient team
Place yourself back in October of 2021 before the NBA season started. If someone from the future told you that the Miami Heat trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry would only play 14 of the first 41 games together, what would you have predicted the Heat’s record would be?
Whatever you would have predicted, you would be wrong. As it currently stands, the Heat hold a record of 27-16 and sit at 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. They are just one game out of the top seed in the East despite 18 missed games from Jimmy Butler, 25 missed games from Bam Adebayo, and several missed games from every other rotation player. To top it all off, the Heat have also played the most number of road games (25 out of 43) in the NBA through the halfway mark of this season.
Despite this, the Miami Heat are on pace for their first 50+ win season since the Big 3 Era and are the only team in the entire NBA who post a top-6 rating both in offensive and defensive efficiency.
The Heat have gone 14-8 in the last 20 games that Bam Adebayo has missed since tearing his UCL in his right thumb in a game against the Denver Nuggets. Jimmy Butler has missed the majority of those games due to a tailbone injury and an ankle injury but the Heat have still managed to go 11-4 in games where neither Adebayo nor Butler have played. These have included wins over quality teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns.
So how have they managed to not just survive, but thrive in the absence of their two biggest stars?
Last season, the Heat had an abysmal record of 7-13 in games that Jimmy Butler missed. While Adebayo took massive offensive steps last year, the Heat only went as far as Butler could carry them. If Butler did not play, or if he did play and didn’t put up his usual heroic performance, the Heat simply could not win games. Coming off of an extremely short offseason following the NBA Bubble, this was just not a recipe for success and was something the Heat looked to remedy by going all in for Kyle Lowry.
Lowry deserves his due respect because this move has turned out to pay dividends and then some. His 8.6 assists per game ranks 5th in the NBA and his veteran leadership and experience have kept the Heat afloat throughout this stretch. The job he has done at keeping Miami near the top of the conference with his playmaking, defense, shooting, rim pressure, and overall scoring when needed cannot be overstated. The Miami Heat have played more undrafted players this season than any other team, and Lowry has still found a way to get each of them to carve out a unique role in the offense.
The biggest misconception about Tyler Herro’s career is that he had a magical performance in the NBA Bubble and then had a “down year” last season. Herro’s statistics across the board, including his field goal percentage, increased from Year 1 to Year 2 despite facing more defensive attention and without having a real offseason to improve after the bubble. While the Heat certainly had an overall disappointing and bitter end to last season, Herro was the subject of unfair criticism for the entirety of his 2020-2021 campaign .
Sure enough, after having his first full offseason to work on his skillset, Herro’s game has taken a leap this year. He is putting up averages of 20.7 points per game (career high), 5.1 rebounds per game (career high), and 4.1 assists per game (career high) on a team contending for the top spot in the conference. Even more impressive than his statistical improvement is the manner in which he has gotten there. While he has had his shooting slumps throughout the year with increased defensive attention on him due to the absences of Butler/Adebayo, Herro has learned how to impact the game positively through his playmaking chops and defensive reads.
He is far and away the favorite to run away with the NBA’s 6 Man of the Year award and his case will only get stronger as the Heat get healthier and he has more freedom to grow.
Unexpected Players Stepping Up
Heading into the season, one of the biggest criticisms surrounding the Heat was their lack of bench depth. Many were concerned that if the Heat were to face any significant injuries to Butler, Adebayo, or Lowry, their lack of bench production outside of Tyler Herro would be exposed. Unfortunately for Miami, the need for depth off of the bench became essential very quickly. Fortunately for Miami, however, is that it turns out they had much more than they realized.
The Heat scouting department is notorious for finding gems off of the undrafted free agency market and turning them into solid rotation players, and it appears that they have struck gold again.
The production that they have gotten off the bench from the likes of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Omer Yurtseven, and Caleb Martin is something that even the Heat could not have seen coming. The rotation has gotten so thin that even Udonis Haslem has been asked to step in to play key minutes at various points of the season (with all due respect to the King of Miami).
Each of these players have been forced to play vital roles in the Heat rotation and have been tasked with more heavy lifting than they may not have expected themselves coming into the season. As it turns out, the Miami depth which once seemed like a valid concern has now turned into perhaps their greatest strength.
Ultimately it’s up to the Heat players to execute on the court, but none of what Miami does is possible without the mastermind behind it all, Coach Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra has long been regarded as one of, if not the, best coaches in the league. And yet, somehow he still remains criminally underrated (doesn’t have a single Coach of the Year award to his name but that’s another article for another day).
His ability to maximize any roster available to him is second to none and he has proved this time and time again.
Coach Spo has had several outstanding coaching seasons to his name. His championship runs in the Big 3 Era, his seasons keeping the Heat competitive without any all-stars in the post-Wade era, and his recent run to the finals in the 2019-2020 season are some that come to mind immediately. Despite his long list of highlights, this season just might be the best showcasing of coaching in his career to date given the expectations and the success he’s seen so far.
To put it in perspective, there is a chance that neither Jimmy Butler nor Bam Adebayo will make an all-star team this season due to having missed such a big portion of the year. And as amazing have Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro have been for Miami, it is likely that neither of them will make an all-star team either due to the fact that the guard position in the East is simply just too talented and they.
In other words, by the time the all-star break rolls around, Coach Spo just may have coached this Heat team to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference without any all-star players this season.
The Heat have certainly faced their fair share of adversity this season, but this adversity has turned out to be a blessing in disguise and has shown what Heat Culture is about. While many teams could have folded under the circumstances that Miami has been forced to deal with this season, the Heat have responded stronger than even the most optimistic of fans could hope for and brighter days lie ahead.
They will enter the second half of this NBA season one game out of the top of the East without heavy minutes logged by their top two stars. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Victor Oladipo, and Markieff Morris (hopefully) will return fresher and more motivated than ever. The Heat have become one of the deepest teams in the league seemingly out of nowhere. They will play the majority of their remaining games at home. And when all else fails, they have the best coach in the game running the show.
In the wise words of ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, “them goons from Dade County” are back.
Looking Ahead: Miami Dolphins opponents for the 2022 NFL season
The schedule won’t be released for a few more months, but we know which teams the Miami Dolphins will be playing against in 2022.
The Miami Dolphins had one of the more odd schedules in the NFL in 2021. A soft stretch on their calendar allowed them to impressively recover from an abysmal 1-7 start, and there was a point when they left Miami just once during a nearly six-week period.
The schedule for 2022 should be a little more “normal”, but the opponents look as though they’ll be a bit more formidable than they were in 2021. The AFC East could be one of the tougher divisions in the league next year, and the divisions that they play against are both black-and-blue and full of cold-weather cities. Whoever winds up being the new head coach of the Dolphins will have his hands full with a tougher schedule than what the team faced in Brian Flores’ final season.
Here is the list of 2022 opponents for the Miami Dolphins:
The Usual Suspects:
Six of Miami’s seventeen games will be played against fellow AFC East teams, which could end up being one of the better divisions in the league if the Dolphins can show improvement.
Patriots – We thought that the Bills would be the class of the division for the foreseeable future, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots look as though they’ll be a factor just as they have been for the last two decades. The Dolphins book ended their 2021 with games against New England, and they’ll likely either open or close with the Patriots again in 2022.
Bills – The Bills have had the Dolphins number over the last few years. Since 2017, Miami is just 1-9 against Buffalo, including some of the most back-breaking losses for the Dolphins in recent memory. Josh Allen has played better against the Dolphins than he does against any other team, and Miami will have to get through him if they hope to ever make some noise in the division.
Jets – The Jets have been abysmal in recent memory, but they have the young players and draft capital necessary to make a turnaround. Zach Wilson had an up and (mostly) down rookie season, but he showed the promise that will allow him to be the guy going forward. 2022 will be the second season for head coach Robert Saleh, who will look to build on what minimal success he had in his first year.
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