Though the Florida Panthers still are trying to find a rhythm, Matthew Tkachuk seems to be adapting well to his new environment.
Meanwhile, former Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar are still looking to find their place with the middling Calgary Flames.
It will be a reunion for all three when the Flames and Panthers each look to rebound from their most recent defeats on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla.
The most notable trade of the NHL offseason came on July 22, when Tkachuk, fresh off a career-high 104-point effort in his sixth season with Calgary, was dealt to Florida along with a conditional 2024 draft pick. In return, the Flames got Huberdeau, who also set a career high for points (115) in 2021-22, and promising defenseman Weegar, who posted a personal best with 44 points last season. Calgary also acquired touted prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick.
Though Florida is 5-6-0 following a 4-1-1 start and has dropped two of its past three at home, Tkachuk is the team leader with 16 assists and 22 points. He’s totaled a goal and four assists in the past two games and appears extra-motivated to help the Panthers bounce back from Thursday’s 6-4 home loss to Dallas.
Tkachuk was a restricted free agent after last season and didn’t want to sign a long-term deal with Calgary.
“I’m definitely going to want to win Saturday, and I know they’ll want the same thing — it will be revved up,” Tkachuk told Sportsnet.
“I just don’t really know what to expect.”
Perhaps it’s an ideal opportunity for the Panthers to get back on track against a Calgary club that’s mired in an 0-3-1 road slide following Thursday’s 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay. Huberdeau, who spent 10 seasons with the Panthers, recorded an assist in that defeat, just his eighth point in 13 games this season but third in three games.
“It hasn’t been the best for me, but it’s early,” Huberdeau — who has bounced between the lines while continuing to deal with the demanding style of Flames coach Darryl Sutter — told Sportsnet.
“I don’t feel pressure … I want to go out there, not think too much and just have fun.”
These early days in Calgary don’t seem to be much fun on the ice for Weegar, who has just four points this season and none in the last eight games.
The Flames and Panthers split their two-game series last season. Patric Hornqvist, who has just two points in 2022-23, scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 47 shots during Florida’s 6-2 home victory over Calgary in January.
Bobrobsky has a 3.46 goals-against average in 10 starts and was pulled after allowing four goals on 11 first-period shots against the Stars. Teammate Spencer Knight is 5-3-0 with a 2.25 GAA.
Meanwhile, Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom has a 3.37 GAA during his current 2-4-2 starting stretch. Backup Dan Vladar has allowed 10 goals in his three starts this season.
Even without Tkachuk and fellow star Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm has been one of Calgary’s most consistent offensive contributors with 14 points. He has a goal in three straight games, and three assists spanning those contests.
Florida hopes to have star Aleksander Barkov (four goals, 10 assists) back on the ice after he missed Thursday’s contest with a non-COVID illness.
–Field Level Media