SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) – After nearly lifting Florida to an elusive playoff berth in 2014-15, Jaromir Jagr looks to get the Panthers off on the right foot when they play their season opener against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Jagr made a statement with Florida after being acquired from New Jersey in February, collecting six goals and 12 assists in 20 games.
The 43-year-old continued to fluster Philadelphia by scoring three goals and setting up two others in three meetings last season to increase his career total to 116 points (45 goals, 71 assists) in 93 contests. Jagr and fellow veteran Roberto Luongo lead a relatively young club that is searching for just its second playoff berth in 15 seasons. Like the Panthers, the Flyers also missed out on the playoffs in 2014-15, although Jakub Voracek certainly isn’t to blame. The Czech had a team-high 81 points for Philadelphia, with two goals and an assist coming against Florida last season.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (0-0-1): Philadelphia endured a familiar result in its season opener against Tampa Bay on Thursday, losing its eighth straight contest that went past regulation. Captain Claude Giroux and Scott Laughton each failed to convert a penalty shot in the NHL debut of coach Dave Hakstol, who had led North Dakota to seven Frozen Four appearances in 11 years. Steve Mason yielded just four goals on 97 shots in the season series and owns a 7-2-1 career mark with a 1.48 goals-against average versus Florida.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2014-15: 38-29-15, 6TH IN ATLANTIC): Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad finished third on the team in assists (27) and fourth in points (39). Jonathan Huberdeau led Florida in both statistics (39 assists, 54 points) and added a career-high 15 goals. The 22-year-old Quebec native parlayed that performance into a new two-year contract extension last month.
- Philadelphia C Brayden Schenn, who scored versus Tampa Bay, had two assists against Florida in 2014-15.
- The Panthers scored a league-low 41 first-period goals last season.
- The Flyers routinely stumble out of the blocks as they lost six of eight to begin the lockout-shortened 2013 season, seven of eight to start the following campaign and their first four (0-2-2) in 2014-15.
PREDICTION: Panthers 3, Flyers 2
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