NHL Hockey

Final 1 2 3 OT SO Tot
Florida 1 1 1 0 1 4
Columbus 2 0 1 0 0 3
4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET22:00 BRT, January 26, 2021
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio  Attendance: 0

Uncertainty abounds as Panthers visit Blue Jackets

Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

  1. The Blue Jackets are 8-1-0 in nine games against the Panthers since 2017-18. That is Columbus' second-best points percentage against any opponent over that span (5-0-0 versus Dallas).
  2. The Panthers have not played since January 19 due to having two games against the Hurricanes postponed. Florida has scored a franchise-high 10 goals through two games this season. The most the Panthers have scored in their first three games of a season is 13 (2017-18).
  3. The Blue Jackets have earned a point in four straight games (2-0-2 record) after defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay, 5-2 in Columbus on Saturday. That is tied for the third-most goals the Blue Jackets have ever scored in a game against the Stanley Cup holders.
  4. Patric Hornqvist has four points (3g, 1a) in his first two games with Florida with two points in each game. Florida had never had a player tally multiple points in each of their first two career games with the team. Hornqvist is just the third Panther to start a season with back-to-back multi-point games.
  5. Alexandre Texier is tied with Oliver Bjorkstrand for the Columbus points lead this season with five (3g, 2a). Texier is averaging 17:29 per game in ice time this season, up from 12:45 per game last season. Among forwards with 50 percent of team games played this season and last season, that is the second-largest jump in TOI per game (Carter Verhaeghe, Fla: 9:22 to 18:03).
  6. Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers' all-time points leader with 441, has four points (1g, 3a) this season. His next goal will be the 150th of his career and will make him the fifth player in team history to score 150 goals for Florida (Olli Jokinen, Scott Mellanby, Aleksander Barkov and Pavel Bure).

There will be a lot of uncertainty when the Florida Panthers visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

Can the Panthers take it up a notch after having been idle since Jan. 19? They have played just two games -- tied for the fewest in the NHL -- while most teams in the league have completed five, six and even seven contests.

Florida's two most recent games on the schedule were postponed due to COVID-19 issues on the Carolina Hurricanes. Earlier this season, the same thing happened to the Dallas Stars, which also cost the Panthers games, at least in the short term.

"You can tell our guys are to the point where they want to play more real games," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said after a recent practice. "This little time here, it is what it is."

Meanwhile, Columbus, which has points in four straight games (2-0-2), has been disrupted by last week's blockbuster trade in which the Jackets sent Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick to Winnipeg for high-scoring winger Patrik Laine and center Jack Roslovic.

It's not known yet if Columbus' two new players will arrive in Ohio in time to play the Panthers -- there are work visa and quarantine issues to deal with, especially coming from Canada.

But the Jackets, including general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, are thrilled to get them -- especially Laine.

"There's a price to be paid for an elite player like (Laine)," Kekalainen said.

And that leads to more key questions: How will the Jackets play Tuesday without Laine if he isn't cleared to play? And if he is ready, will the Jackets need time to adjust to a 22-year-old star who scored 140 goals in 306 games with the Jets?

After that mystery is solved, there are more questions. How will the armada of former Blue Jackets now in Florida do in their return to Columbus?

That group includes goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, in his second year with the Panthers, and newcomers Anthony Duclair, Alexander Wennberg and Markus Nutivaara.

Nutivaara has yet to make his Panthers debut due to COVID protocol. Wennberg has no goals and one assist with the Panthers, and Duclair has two assists. Bobrovsky allowed four goals but got the win in his only appearance so far this season on Jan. 19 against Chicago.

Speaking of newcomers, the biggest positive for the Panthers in 2021 has been winger Patric Hornqvist, who has a team-high three goals and one assist in the two games since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Columbus' leading goal scorer is Alexandre Texier, 21, who is getting his biggest opportunity in the league since he broke into the NHL in 2018-19. He has three goals and two assists in five games.

As for the goalies, the Jackets have given three starts each to Elvis Merzlikins (1-1-1, 3.34 GAA, .891 save percentage) and Joonas Korpisalo (1-1-1, 2.34, .935).

If the Panthers don't start Bobrovsky, they will go with Chris Driedger, who allowed two goals in his only game this season on Jan. 17 against the Blackhawks.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 25, 2021

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