SUNRISE — Prior to this season, few would say the Florida Panthers arena in Sunrise was a tough place to play, but it has proved to be just that for visitors of late. The Columbus Blue Jackets are going to try to spoil the party on Saturday.
With Friday’s 7-1 win over Dallas, the Panthers improved to a league-best 20-3 record on home ice.
The Panthers are on quite a run, winning seven of eight and their past six at home. Florida has also snagged 15 of the available 16 points since returning from the holiday break.
“I think we take a lot of pride in making this a hard place for teams to come in and try to get points,’’ Sam Bennett said Friday night after getting his second hat trick of the season.
“We have done a heck of a job all year at home. We love playing here, we love playing in front of our fans and we love making it tough on our opponents. So we are going to try to do it all year long.”
Florida came into Friday with the league’s No. 2 scoring offense on home ice (4.5 goals per night) with only Colorado and Minnesota averaging over four home goals per game.
The Panthers are also one of four teams (Colorado, St. Louis and Dallas) to get more than 80 percent of available home points so far this season.
Florida now has 20 home wins in 23 games, the fewest games required to reach 20 home wins in club history.
The Panthers have won five more home games than the next-closest club (St. Louis).
Only three NHL teams in the past 65 years hit 20 home wins in fewer games, the last being Anaheim in 2013-14. Those Ducks did so in 22 games.
“I think they’ve taken it to another level here this year,’’ coach Andrew Brunette said.
“I think we built a lot of confidence last year, especially at home. They have fun with this crowd. It’s a fun place to play and we play an exciting brand of hockey. I feel the players are feeding off the crowd, the crowd is feeding off the players, and I think we feel good.
“We want to bring an identity that South Florida is going to be a real hard place for teams to come in, and they better be ready to play because we play really well at home. I’m proud of the way we’ve played and we’re continuing to build it here night in, night out, and that’s kind of the game plan.”
The Blue Jackets came to town feeling pretty good about things.
Although Columbus is all but certain to miss the playoffs this season — the Jackets came into Friday nine points back of Boston for the final Wild Card slot — it has been able to pull off some nice wins.
Thursday, the Jackets came into Raleigh with losses in four of five but left Carolina with a resounding 6-0 win as Elvis Merzlikins got his second shutout of the season.
This is the first time Columbus and Florida are playing this season but the reunion days are all but over.
The Blue Jackets have had so much turnover in the past few years, only a handful of players (Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand among them) played with Sergei Bobrovsky in central Ohio.
Bobrovsky would usually get the night off after making 29 saves on Friday. But considering Spencer Knight came off the Covid list Friday, he may just get the start.
“Confidence is growing,’’ Anthony Duclair said. “All four lines, all the D, are stepping up at the right moments. Bob, can’t forget about Bob; he’s making key saves at key moments at the beginning of the game that a couple bounces could go the other way, so it starts with Bob in net, and we build confidence from there out.
“It’s really fun to be playing right now, especially at home.”
— The Panthers made a couple of roster moves following Friday’s practice.
Not only was goalie Evan Fitzpatrick signed to a one-year, two-way deal, but Florida also sent Owen Tippett and Aleksi Heponiemi to AHL Charlotte.
Those two may be in Charlotte’s lineup Saturday night.
— Columbus defenseman Andrew Peeke, who hails from Parkland, will be back in his home arena come Saturday night.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 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 -110) — (Money Line -280) — Over/Under 6.5 (-124/+104)
- Last season: Florida won 7-0-1
- All-time regular season series: Columbus leads 24-13-4, 0 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
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 98 Maxim Mamin
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 19 Joe Thornton // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
32 Lucas Carlsson // 62 Brandon Montour
30 Spencer Knight
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Olli Juolevi, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Lomberg
Taxi squad: Evan Fitzpatrick
Injured: Noel Acciari (LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
Covid Protocol: Jonas Johansson
To Charlotte: Aleksi Heponiemi, Owen Tippett
PROJECTED COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS LINEUP
29 Patrik Laine // 38 Boone Jenner // 14 Gustav Nyquist
16 Max Domi // 34 Cole Sillinger // 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
42 Alexandre Texier // 96 Jack Roslovic // 52 Emil Bemstrom
50 Eric Robinson // 7 Sean Kuraly // 59 Yegor Chinakhov
8 Zach Werenski // 27 Adam Boqvist
44 Vladislav Gavrikov // 2 Andrew Peeke
22 Jake Bean // 46 Dean Kukan
90 Elvis Merzlikins
70 Joonas Korpisalo
Blue Jackets lineup courtesy Columbus Dispatch.com
Christian Wilkins makes sure refs know he is eligible: Dolphins Best of Mic’d Up 2022
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Christian Wilkins is reporting as eligible when he comes in on offense or special teams. The defensive lineman makes sure he gets the referee’s attention, as can be seen in this collection of the best mic’d up moments of the 2022 season from the Miami Dolphins.
The video also features long snapper Blake Ferguson high fiving himself, tight end Mike Gesicki wanting the ball on every third down, linebacker Jerome Baker making an interception while where a microphone, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa running over defenders, defensive lineman Adam Butler wanting to know what Ndaukong Suh eats, cornerback Xavien Howard wanting to get his helmet back, linebacker Elandon Roberts wanting to doubel dip, guard Robert Hunt looking for his water, line judge Sarah Thomas making sure she does not have to throw a flag, and more.
Check out the video. It is a good eight minutes of entertainment:
Miami Dolphins: What we know about the latest head coach rumors
It still is kind of hard to believe that the Miami Dolphins fired Brian Flores only a few weeks ago and we still haven’t a set clue on who will replace him.
Rumors and speculation are two different things and they both are lighting up the internet over the last few days. On social media, there has been a lot of rumors regarding the Dolphins next head coach and many have come from people who claim to have sources, yet none in the mainstream media are doing more than speculating.
Thus far, we really don’t know what the Dolphins are going to do but here is what we know so far.
Brian Daboll – Daboll has had two interviews with the Giants but many still believe that he is the top choice for the Dolphins and that the interest is mutual. That being said, others are saying that Daboll may not be keen on working again with Tua. That is contradictory to what some others are saying.
Vance Joseph – There is a connection between Joseph and the Dolphins and it is widely being reported that he is held in high regard by Chris Grier. It is also being said that Joseph would be the Dolphins HC now but Ross isn’t 100% sure. Whether this is true or not, is unknown but what we do know is that Joseph has interviewed with only one team, the Dolphins.
Dan Quinn – Quinn interviewed with Miami last week but there has not been any conversations that imply he is the choice for the Dolphins and it doesn’t appear to be heading in that direction.
Mike McDaniel – The 49ers OC is believed to perhaps be the top choice for the Dolphins. If that is true, it would make sense as to why the Dolphins have yet to do anything. The 49ers are still in the playoffs and the Dolphins can’t do anything until they are eliminated. He interviewed last week.
Doug Pederson – Many in the Dolphins circles believed that Miami may go after their own former QB but so far, there has been no indication that he is a target.
Jim Harbaugh – Ross came out and said he would not be the one that takes Harbaugh away from Michigan but another report has said that Harbaugh reached out to Ross. While nothing appears imminent, there is a growing speculation that he very well may be the Dolphins target. This is speculation at its best.
The National Signing Day for the NCAA is February 2nd and Harbaugh has been on the recruiting trail heavily in recent weeks. If the Dolphins were going to sign Harbaugh, it would make sense to wait until after recruits commit to Michigan. It isn’t exactly moral but it would make some sense as to why Miami hasn’t done much after the first round of interviews.
Frontrunners – Depending on who you want to believe, the top four names that are being linked to Miami, in a somewhat rotating manner, are Daboll, Joseph, McDaniel, and Harbaugh. The next HC should be one of those four unless Miami is pulling wool over everyone else’s eyes.
Florida Panthers Mason Marchment gains confidence with familiar linemates
This season has not been an easy one for Florida Panthers forward Mason Marchment.
After missing almost two months with what is believed to be a wrist injury, Marchment came back with a three-game point streak spanning from Dec. 29 to Jan. 1 — four games if you count the goal he scored on Nov. 8 before getting injured against the New York Rangers.
Marchment did not get to stick around for long.
It certainly was not by the choice of interim coach Andrew Brunette.
On Jan. 3, Marchment was placed on the Covid-19 protocol list and missed the next six games the Panthers played.
He was away from the team for 10 days while recovering from Covid and spent another five days getting back into game shape.
“You have to pass a certain threshold with the Covid in order to come back and I am feeling good and ready to go,” Marchment said after returning to the team.
“I have had some bad luck but everything happens for a reason. I’m just trying to get better every day and be ready to play whenever I am in there.”
When he got back into the lineup, things started out a little slow.
Drawing back in when the Panthers started their road trip in Calgary he registered an assist to extend his point streak to five games but did not see the scoresheet for the next three games.
“I’m starting to feel better,’’ Marchment said. “The first couple of games, I felt a little step behind. I was a step behind a play here, a second behind a play there. It’s starting to come.
“But it’s tough coming in and out of the lineup and then Covid and all of these things. But no excuses, got to put my head down and work harder.”
Following a disappointing loss to the Seattle Kraken, Brunette decided to put Marchment with two guys he is familiar with: Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart.
The trio played together in the early going of the season, including a stretch where they combined for 10 points in a two-game span in wins over the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche in October.
“I think we read well off of each other,” Marchment said. “I know me and Lundell have played together quite a bit through the last couple of months and you know Reinhart is a great player and a great passer he sees the ice really well.
“I think we gelled really well together, we had a great start of the season, but got split up, so it feels good to be back together.”
When they were put back together when the Panthers took on the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, they did not miss a beat.
Marchment’s line set the tone for the Panthers, helping them establish play early. Not to mention, they scored three goals during the first period.
Florida ended up finishing off their five-game road trip with a 5-3 win over the Jets.
“They got three goals in the first and they were buzzing right from the start,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “They gave us a spark that we need, especially coming off of a tough loss in Seattle.”
Two of those goals belonged to Marchment.
“It was good to see him get a couple of goals tonight and make some plays and gain some confidence because we’re gonna need him going forward here,” Brunette said.
In the 18 games he played this season, he has been effective, scoring four goals and 14 points.
“He had a great start of the year and then went through some injury things and Covid, it took him a few games to get going, but I thought he showed some signs here and there,” Brunette said.
“Tonight was his best game by far and he’s a unique player for us. He brings a dimension that not a lot of our players have, he creates a lot of different things with his size, his reach, his tenacity, and gives us a little physical presence.”
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