SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The surging Florida Panthers go after a franchise-record eighth straight victory when they host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
The Panthers completed the most productive month in franchise history on Tuesday, finishing with 22 points (11-3-0) after a 3-1 victory over Montreal, and have allowed just 10 goals during the fourth seven-game winning streak in team annals.
Aleksander Barkov has posted four goals in the last two games while centering a line featuring Florida’s top two scorers — Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau.
The Rangers, who struggled in the defensive end during most of a 4-7-2 month of December, will have to slow down that trio in order to record their eighth straight victory over the Panthers. New York played much better in its own zone last time out, snapping an eight-game road losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
“We have to understand what it took to win (Wednesday), and it’s going to take it the rest of the year,” Rangers center Derek Stepan told reporters. “That’s the way we need to play, and that’s the mindset we have to have.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE RANGERS (21-13-4): The fourth line of Viktor Stalberg, Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass set the tone Wednesday, according to coach Alain Vigneault, and finished with four points and a plus-9 rating. Mats Zuccarello leads the team in goals (16) and points (31), tallying twice in his last three contests, and Derick Brassard is next with 13 and 28, respectively. Kevin Hayes was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Wednesday and defenseman Daniel Girardi missed Friday’s practice due to body maintenance.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (21-12-4): Center Nick Bjugstad, who led the team in scoring last season but has missed the last 14 games due to migraines, is close to returning to the lineup. “I don’t know the timetable of when I’m coming back, but I’m close,” Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “Things have gotten a lot better over the past month.” Jagr, who has 733 career goals to place fourth in NHL history, has posted four points in four games to lead the team with 26 and Huberdeau is next (25) after recording a pair of assists in three of his last four contests.
1. New York G Henrik Lundqvist is 21-9-1 with a .936 save percentage in 31 career games against the Panthers, including a 39-save effort in a 5-4 overtime victory on Nov. 27.
2. Florida G Roberto Luongo is riding a personal six-game winning streak during which he has allowed a total of nine goals.
3. Rangers RW Rick Nash has scored nine goals in 18 career games versus the Panthers, including a hat trick in the first meeting this season.