Panthers seek back-to-back wins vs. Blackhawks

NHL Hockey

On Friday, Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said he was leaning toward making Keith Yandle a healthy scratch, which would’ve ended the longest consecutive-games streak ever by an NHL defenseman.

On Saturday, “Coach Q” changed his mind.

And, on Sunday, Yandle responded by scoring his 100th NHL goal in a 5-2, season-opening Panthers win over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.

Yandle’s teammates, who had read the reports of a possible benching and also the trade rumors, reacted with euphoria when that goal gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

“Scoring that goal helped solidify the work I’ve put in to get ready for the season,” Yandle said. “Seeing (teammates’) reaction got me real fired up.”

On Tuesday, the Panthers will try to have similar success as they host a rematch with the Blackhawks in Sunrise, Fla.

The Blackhawks have lost all three of their games this season, allowing five goals each time, consistently playing from behind.

“It’s frustrating,” said Blackhawks right winger Alex DeBrincat, who has two goals and one assist for a team-high three points in three games. “We work hard to get back in games, and then they go down and score.

“I feel like a broken record, but we have to play a full 60 minutes.”

The Blackhawks, who have alternated goalies this season, might go back to Malcolm Subban. Collin Delia, who made 24 stops against the Panthers on Sunday, has a 5.00 goals-against average in two games. Subban has a 5.03 GAA in one game. Both goalies have an .848 save percentage.

Connor Murphy, who scored against the Panthers on Sunday, said Chicago’s defensive issues stretch well beyond the goalies.

“I don’t think we have the intensity we need right now,” Murphy said. “Our play around net is a big part of it, and that includes all of us (defensemen), and it could go as far as forwards winning battles, too.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, are thrilled with their newcomers, including Patric Hornqvist and Eetu Luostarinen.

Hornqvist and Luostarinen each had one goal and one assist while putting three shots on goal and finishing plus-two.

But that is where the similarities end between those two new Panthers.

Hornqvist, 34, is a veteran who has won two Stanley Cup titles, in 2016 and 2017 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has 239 career goals.

Luostarinen, a 22-year-old native of Finland, is a rookie with exactly one NHL score in nine games, including the eight he played for the Carolina Hurricanes last season.

A Hurricanes second-round pick in 2017, Luostarinen was perhaps more ready than most other players for the start of this season.

“Before (Panthers) training camp, I got some ice time in Finland,” said Luostarinen, who played for KalPa in Liiga. “That was a huge deal for me.

“I just wanted to keep it going, and that first game (on Sunday) felt good.”

Among Florida’s other newcomers on Sunday, defenseman Radko Gudas made the biggest impact with four shots on goal, a game-high three hits and one assist.

Chris Driedger, who had 25 saves on Sunday, will rest on Tuesday as Quenneville announced that Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal. Bobrovsky missed the opener as he continued to work toward getting into game shape.

–Field Level Media

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