By David Dwork

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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – If it feels it’s been a like a long time since the Florida Panthers home opener, it has.

The Panthers finally return to action after a four-day break when they host the St. Louis Blues tonight at the BB&T Center.

It will be a solid test for the Panthers after splitting last weekend’s home-and-home with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

St. Louis leads the NHL with eight points and a perfect 4-0-0 record.


The Panthers top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov has played well so far but there is still work to be done.

“We’ve been alright but we can get better for sure,” Barkov said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We’ve been scoring. I think some shifts we’ve have been playing fine.”

Dadonov leads the Panthers with 3 points (1g 2a) while Barkov and Huberdeau have chipped in a goal and an assist apiece.

At 28, Dadonov is the eldest of the group.

Barkov, 22, and Huberdeau, 24, have spent the majority of their time with the Panthers playing with Jaromir Jagr as their right winger.

Jagr is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best hockey players in the world so it’s easy to understand how the chemistry on that line clicked instantly.

That’s no knock on Dadonov but it may take a little longer for the new combination to mesh.

Still, Barkov is confident that his new line will be just as productive as his old one.

“So far I like the line,” Barkov said. “Dadonov is a pretty good player and I’ve played with [Huberdeau] for a long time and we think about the game the same way so we don’t have to talk too much about it.”

While the unit has provided offense, it has not been as sound defensively as you’d like to expect from a Barkov-centered line.

“It’s been small mistakes that cost us goals,” Barkov explained. “When we play in our zone for a while and then they just chip the puck from our zone and go on a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1, we have to clean those up. We have to play smarter [in our end] and at the same time we have to play better in their zone so they don’t have enough energy to go and score on our end.”

Barkov, Huberdeau and Dadonov each have a minus-3 on-ice rating, the only Florida forwards in the red.

Defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and Iam McCoshen are all minus-1.


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