ANAHEIM (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers hoped to be a more attacking, offensive team when Tom Rowe took over as interim coach in late November, replacing Gerard Gallant, and it appears they are beginning to find their way.
The Panthers scored 13 goals in the first two contests of a critical road trip that continues with a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Rowe told reporters “We just took advantage of our opportunities” after Wednesday’s 6-5 overtime victory at Pacific Division-leading San Jose in which Florida posted only 22 shots on goal.
Aleksander Barkov boasts four goals in the past three games for the Panthers, who have accumulated 24 tallies in the last five contests of their current 5-1-1 surge.
Anaheim, which lost 2-1 at Florida on February 3rd, should be a strong challenge for the Panthers after ending a six-game road trip (2-3-1) with an inspiring 1-0 victory over Western Conference-leading Minnesota on Tuesday.
“We knew it was a big game,” Ducks goalie John Gibson, who turned aside 37 shots, told reporters. “It wasn’t the road trip we wanted and we knew if we could end on a good note it would kind of build confidence and salvage the trip.”
Anaheim will be without face-off specialist Antoine Vermette for 10 games after he was suspended for abuse of an official in Tuesday’s victory and forward Corey Tropp was recalled to add depth. One of the issues on the road trip for Anaheim was the power play, which converted one of 18 attempts in the first five games before going without an opportunity against Minnesota. Ryan Kesler leads the team with 44 points while fellow forwards captain Ryan Getzlaf (42, three in the last two games) and Corey Perry (40, four in the last three) are closing in.
Barkov is not the only Florida player lifting his game during the hot streak as leading scorer Vincent Trocheck (39 points) boasts two goals and three assists in the last three games. Fellow forward Jonathan Huberdeau scored the winning goal Wednesday and has been on fire since returning from an Achilles injury that kept him out of the first 51 games, tallying three times and setting up four in four outings. Roberto Luongo was replaced by James Reimer for overtime against San Jose, but Rowe told reporters the veteran goalie was just cramping and should be fine.
1. Anaheim F Rickard Rakell leads the team with 22 goals, but has only one in the last six contests.
2. Florida RW Jaromir Jagr became the second player in NHL history to reach 1,900 points Wednesday, recording an assist on his 45th birthday, and owns three in three games.
3. Ducks D Sami Vatanen (lower-body) missed the last five games and is considered day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Ducks 3, Panthers 2
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