The Florida Panthers are currently on a two-week break as a result of some of the chunks from the Olympic break not being used. In the standings, they are second in the NHL with a record of 32-10-5 with 69 points. Of course, fans may go insane at simply the thought of no Panthers hockey until Wed., Feb. 16, against the Carolina Hurricanes. However, this break will likely do the team more good than harm.
More Time To Evaluate Noel Acciari
Forward Noel Acciari entered the season requiring surgery after a fight during a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 5. He started practicing with the team again about a month ago and was sent down to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) on a conditioning assignment for two games.
With this break, it gives the Panthers more time to reevaluate Acciari and see if he’ll be good to go when the break ends. In addition, his skill set and play style is exactly what they need for the postseason. Furthermore, his faceoff production could be the cure for their bad faceoff percentage as they ranked 30th in the NHL in that department with a 46.6% win rate. For a big push, they’re going to want to utilize his abilities when he comes back.
Gives Patric Hornqvist and Maxim Mamin Time To Heal Up
Last month, forwards Patric Hornqvist and Maxim Mamin both suffered injuries that have kept them out for some time. Hornqvist suffered one on Jan. 18 against the Calgary Flames and hasn’t played since. On Jan. 27, just before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Mamin was scratched for an undisclosed injury and was placed on injured reserve (IR).
This two-week break will give them enough time to get healthy and back to practice. As of now, they appear to be on track to return by Feb. 16.
Panthers Analyzing Potential Assets Before the Trade Deadline
General manager Bill Zito has stated that he is looking to improve the roster as they have shown interest in multiple defensive pieces. With the play of other teams going on during their break, it gives scouts and management more time to analyze assets they’ve been keeping an eye on and see if it’s worth giving up a roster player or a high draft pick.
Related: Former Panthers in the 2022 Olympics
Granted, the trade deadline isn’t until next month on Mar. 21. Though, getting a head start on the competition would not be a bad thing for a strong playoff-contending team like the Panthers.
More Development For Knight in the AHL
During the break, the Panthers sent goaltender Spencer Knight down to the Checkers to develop his game further and give him playing time. Since the All-Star break started, he’s been featured in two matchups. One was against the Rochester Americans, where he stopped 24 of 26 shots faced and recorded a .923 save percentage (SV%) in a 5-2 victory. In another start, he shut out the Bridgeport Islanders by stopping 25 shots in a 2-0 win. He’s slowly returning to the form Panthers fans saw at the end of last season.
Knight is still down in the AHL and it is unknown when he’ll get another nod in net. But, having him get playing time while the Panthers are on a two-week break should build his confidence after the 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers on Feb. 1. With a big playoff push coming, they need him to come in and play at an elite level to form a dangerous goalie tandem with Sergei Bobrovsky.
Will It Be Enough for a Deep Playoff Run?
Even if the Panthers go on a bad losing streak, it is safe to say that they are a lock for a spot at the dance this upcoming postseason. Though, their players coming back from injury and their backup goaltender on the rise should be just enough to make a strong finish in the standings. All season long, the Panthers have shown the league they can hang with the best. With the second half starting soon, they need to make that point even clearer to show they can compete in the playoffs.
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My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!