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SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — Florida Panthers fans were quick to vent their frustration toward Tom Rowe as the team’s general manager/interim coach stood behind the bench in his home debut on Thursday.
With Rowe clearly in the eye of the storm, the Panthers look to snap a four-game skid and are in search of just their second win in eight outings on Saturday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
For all of their troubles, Florida finds itself just two points shy of where it stood last season – and that club put the puzzle together en route to winning 47 games and securing the Atlantic Division title.
“I think it gives our guys a real good thing to shoot for. We’ve got a long way to go here in the season,” Rowe said. “The biggest thing as a coaching staff, we’ve got to make sure the emotions are even-keeled, not getting too high when we do well, not getting too low when we hit a bump.”
While the bumps have been many for Florida, Vancouver has enjoyed smooth sailing with wins in four of its last six heading into the third contest of a five-game road trip.
The Canucks are 1-1-0 on the current trek after Thursday’s 5-1 win over Tampa Bay and 4-3-0 in their last seven road tilts after opening the season mired in an 0-5-1 stretch away from Rogers Arena.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet (Vancouver), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (12-13-2): Erik Gudbranson has slumped out of the blocks since joining Vancouver in an offseason deal from Florida, and he isn’t shy about admitting it. “I personally struggled a little with the new systems and adapting to it and finding a way within that system to play physical,” the 24-year-old defenseman told the Vancouver Sun. “I want to be tough to play against. I want guys to know they’re going to get hit if they come to my side. For a while there, I was struggling to find a way to have that presence.” Gudbranson is saddled with a minus-13 rating, but enters Saturday’s game on a high after scoring his first goal of the season while seeing his ice time elevate with Alex Edler and Chris Tanev sidelined by injury.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (12-12-4): Future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, who is within five points of tying Mark Messier (1,887) for second place in NHL history, will see an unfamiliar face join Aleskander Barkov on the team’s top line. The offensive-minded Seth Griffith, who was claimed off waivers last month, has worked his way up from the fourth line despite being held off the scoresheet in eight of nine games with Florida. Barkov has three goals and an assist in his last five games and also has four points (one goal, three assists) in five career encounters versus Vancouver.
1. Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin saw his four-game point streak end on Thursday, but has recorded 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 16 career meetings with Florida.
2. Panthers G Roberto Luongo has yielded back-to-back four-goal performances and owns a 2-2-2 career mark against the team with which he spent parts of eight seasons.
3. Florida has thwarted 22-of-23 short-handed situations over the last six games.
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