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Panthers’ potent line a road challenge for Islanders

Oct 19, 2022; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) checks Philadelphia Flyers left wing Noah Cates (49) to the ice during the third period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Tkachuk, the Florida Panthers’ huge offseason acquisition, is the first player in franchise history to start a season with at least one point in five straight games.

Tkachuk leads the Panthers in points (eight), assists (five), goals (three) and shots on goal (24).

“He has produced every night for us,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “He’s been good right from the start of the year.”

Tkachuk will hope to keep his streak going Sunday afternoon, when his Panthers play host to the New York Islanders.

The Islanders will be the less-rested team as they played Saturday night, losing 5-3 at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Matt Martin, who scored for the Islanders on Saturday, was fairly upbeat after the loss, however.

“A couple of breakdowns that shouldn’t happen cost us,” he said. “But, overall, it was a good effort.”

Florida beat the host Islanders, 3-1, on Opening Night, Oct. 13. But that game was closer than the score indicates. The teams were tied in the third period before Patric Hornqvist got the game-winner, and Tkachuk added an empty-netter.

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves in that game, but he may yield to backup Spencer Knight on Sunday in order to give the Islanders a different look. Bobrovsky is 2-1-1 with a 2.79 goals-against average. Knight is 1-0-0 with a 3.00 GAA.

Islanders starting goalie Ilya Sorokin, who took the loss Saturday and had his record drop to 1-3-0, may also get rested Sunday. His backup is Semyon Varlamov, who is 1-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA.

The Islanders will try to contain the Panthers line of Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and Rudolf Balcers. With Tkachuk on the ice in Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, the Panthers outshot the Lightning 12-4.

In addition, Balcers has scored a go-ahead goal in two straight Panthers games, but he remains humble.

“They are unreal players,” Balcers said of his linemates. “It’s easy to play with them.

“I feel good. I love this team. I love the atmosphere on the bench and in the locker-room.”

Meanwhile, the Islanders, who went 2-2-0 in a season-opening four-game homestand, are set to play their second straight road contest.

There’s good news and bad news for the Isles.

On the penalty kill, they are an impressive 18-for-18.

But the Islanders power play has struggled, going just 1-for-15.

Islanders got defenseman Sebastian Aho back Saturday as he made his season debut.

But the Islanders benched winger Josh Bailey, who is off to a sluggish start with zero points in four games. A former first-round pick, Bailey had 14 goals and 30 assists last season.

Perhaps the Islanders can take advantage of a Panthers defense that is missing its best player on the unit, Aaron Ekblad, who is expected to miss about one month due to a groin injury.

However, defenseman Brandon Montour returned for the Panthers on Friday after missing two games. He provided two assists, giving the Islanders more for their scouting report.

“Whenever my name is called,” Montour said, “I’m happy to be out there.”

–Field Level Media

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