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Panthers aim to keep scoring vs. Blackhawks

Mar 29, 2022; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Mason Marchment (17) reacts after scoring in the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers will look to keep their high-octane offense churning on Thursday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in Sunrise, Fla.

The Panthers have scored a franchise-record 268 non-shootout goals this season after posting a 7-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau tied the NHL record for assists in a season by a left wing with his 70th on Tuesday. Huberdeau also scored two goals on Tuesday to boost his season total to 93, breaking his previous career high of 92 set in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, Chicago is coming off a 6-5 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. The Blackhawks coughed up a four-goal lead in the second period.

“We stopped playing the game the right way,” Chicago interim coach Derek King said. “We’re disappointed. We’ll see just how disappointed we are next game.”

The Panthers have won 45 games this season, two short of the franchise record set in 2015-16.

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky earned his 32nd win of the season on Tuesday. He is three victories from tying the club record of 35, a feat accomplished twice by Roberto Luongo. Bobrovsky is 20-3-0 at home and 32-6-3 overall.

One of the magical aspects of Florida’s success this season has been its superlative depth. For example, fourth-line forward Ryan Lomberg recorded his first career two-goal game on Tuesday.

Lomberg had started the day with just eight career goals, but his energy routinely inspires his Panthers teammates.

“I’m not surprised,” Huberdeau said of Lomberg’s scoring. “In practice, he scores goals. Now he’s picking corners (of the net).”

Panthers coach Andrew Brunette shuffled his lines by necessity on Tuesday after forward Noel Acciari went out due to an upper-body injury.

That allowed Lomberg, at times, to play with stars such as Huberdeau and captain Aleksander Barkov, who leads the Panthers with 29 goals.

“He was the heartbeat of the group (Tuesday night),” Brunette said of Lomberg. “He’s got skill. He’s good with the puck, and he has intangibles.”

As for Florida’s next challenge, the Blackhawks have several stars to watch, including forwards Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, captain Jonathan Toews, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik.

Kane leads Chicago in assists (58) and points (79). DeBrincat leads Chicago with 38 goals, which is three short of his career high.

Strome has 19 goals, one short of his career high.

Toews, 33, may be on the decline with just 10 goals and 19 assists, two seasons after erupting for 35 and 46, respectively. Last season, he had 18 goals and 42 assists in 70 games.

Similarly, Kubalik scored 30 goals just two seasons ago. This season, the 26-year-old has just 12 goals in 66 games.

The Blackhawks are riding goaltender Kevin Lankinen, who is in his second year in the NHL. He is just 4-9-5 with a 3.63 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage this season.

March has already been the busiest month for Lankinen, who is 1-4-1 with a 3.87 GAA and an .883 SP.

–Field Level Media