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Flames, Panthers meet to put red-hot runs to test

Mar 4, 2024; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar (52) controls the puck in front of Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) during the first period against the Seattle Kraken at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Dueling runs of success will meet Saturday when the visiting Calgary Flames take on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., with each having won six times over their last seven games.

It will be the second meeting between the teams this season after the Flames beat the Panthers 3-1 at Calgary on Dec. 18.

The Flames are led by several former Panthers players, including wingers Jonathan Huberdeau and Dryden Hunt, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar and goalie Jacob Markstrom.

In Calgary’s 6-3 win over the host Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, Markstrom earned the win with 19 saves, Huberdeau and Weegar dished two assists each and Hunt scored a goal.

“I think we outworked them,” Huberdeau said. “That’s what we do when we play well.”

Markstrom is 22-16-2 this season. Huberdeau is second on the Flames with 31 assists and fourth with 40 points. Weegar has scored a career-high 15 goals, and Hunt has two goals in 12 games, just one goal short of what he scored in 63 games over three seasons with the Panthers.

Huberdeau, who has one goal and seven assists in his past seven games, was traded by the Panthers to the Flames in a blockbuster deal on July 22, 2022. The Flames also acquired Weegar in that same deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida.

So far this season, Huberdeau and Weegar have combined for 24 goals and 52 assists. Tkachuk has 21 goals and 50 assists.

On Thursday, the Panthers lost 2-1 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, ending a six-game winning streak. Florida had won 12 of its previous 13 games.

“It did not look like we had a lot in the tank,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of his team’s energy. “We will get some rest and be ready for the next one.”

Thursday was a big day for Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling. Prior to scoring a goal against Philadelphia, Forsling signed an eight-year, $46-million contract extension.

“It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am for everything this organization has done for me,” said Forsling, who leads Panthers defensemen this season in goals (10) and assists (22).

“I remember the day I got the call saying (Florida) picked me off waivers (from Carolina). I’m just grateful.”

Sam Reinhart leads the Panthers in goals (45) and points (75). His 45 tallies rank second in the league, and he also leads the NHL in power-play goals (25).

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who leads the Eastern Conference with 31 wins, has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 straight games, which ties an NHL record — also held by Martin Brodeur (2010-11) and by Jacques Plante (1970-71) — for the longest streak ever by a goalie age 35 or older.

In 17 career games against Calgary, Bobrovsky is 8-5-3 with a 2.79 goals-against average.

Thursday also marked the debut of Panthers forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.

Tarasenko has 17 goals and 24 assists this season. He is three tallies short of his first 20-plus-goals season since 2021-22, when he had 34 for the St. Louis Blues.

Only Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe and Tkachuk have scored more goals for the Panthers this season than Tarasenko has delivered.

–Field Level Media

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