(Editor’s note: This posting will be updated following Thursday night’s games to reflect updated standings and set up Friday night’s game).
SUNRISE–The Florida Panthers (26-15-5-57) expect to have All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad back for Friday night’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks (32-13-4-68) and Saturday’s game with the Tampa Bay Lightning (25-17-4-54).
Before coming to BB&T Center Chicag0 will play the Lighting tonight at Amelie Arena. Both teams are on winning streaks as Chicago has tied Florida’s NHL best 12-game winning streak and Tampa Bay has won six straight. Tomorrow Chicago will play a well-rested Panthers team that is 0-3-1 since a hit from behind knocked Ekblad out of the lineup for four games.
Ekblad, selected as one of six Atlantic Division defensemen for next weekend’s All-Star weekend in Nashville, has been sorely missed. The second year defenseman is one of the NHL’s best. In his absence the Panthers have had trouble clearing the puck out of their own end, and point play in the attacking zone has suffered. This has caused the Panthers forwards to spend a lot more time retreating deep into their defensive zone, and reduced their scoring chances at the other end of the ice.
Still, the Panthers hold a three-point lead over Tampa Bay and Detroit in the Atlantic Division. A good scenario would see Chicago beat Tampa Bay tonight and lose to the Panthers tomorrow, which would give Florida as much as a five-point lead. A win by Tampa Bay over Chicago tonight pulls them into within one point of Florida, which would set up a battle for first place Saturday if Chicago beats Florida Friday night.
The Chicago crowd is usually quite loud and both games in the Sunshine state should be exciting.
Tickets for upcoming Florida Panthers games can be purchased through panthers.nhl.com.
JAGR NEWS: On the heels of their brilliant article on Jaromir Jagr in their Dec. 7, 2015 edition, Sportsnet had a smaller, but worth reading article this week on his historic effectiveness and finding ways to be a force in the NHL at age 43.
In his rookie year Jagr was mentored by future Hall-of-Famer Bryan Trottier. The six-time cup winner and teammate of Panthers TV color man Denis Potvin from his Islanders years, Trottier talks about the very young Jagr.
Here’s another column that was distributed Monday.
Assorted Jagr-related links:
Florida Panthers 2015-16 Media Guide
Florida Panthers Team website: http://www.floridapanthers.com
Some Jagr-related social media accounts:
@68Jagr This is the real site, the one and only official Jaromir Jagr twitter account. Postings are rare, but worth the wait. Jagr has been more active on Twitter this season.
The two best Jagr facebook pages are:
This is the page Jagr posts on, if he is going to post at all.
Another good facebook page is one produced by someone in the Czech Republic. It has more than 100,000 likes. This is not the official page, but it is very good.
@FlaPanthers and @FLAPanthersPR The official twitter accounts for news about the team.
@dougielarge Doug Cifu, few owners in sports relate to the fans as much as this man who interacts with fans and media on twitter.
@goldieonice — Steve Goldstein, TV play-by-play of the Panthers. Brings all those exciting highlights to life.
@DenisPotvinFox — NHL Hall of Famer Denis Potvin works along side Goldstein in the booth.
@HeyRedDeer color man Randy Moller who left the radio booth to help Goldstein and Potvin on TV.
@GeorgeRichards Panthers beat writer for the Miami Herald.
@HFialkov Panthers beat writer for the Sun Sentinel
@AntwanStaley Includes Panthers coverage in his all sports all the time reports
twitter for Cats On the Prowl, offering detailed reviews of Panthers games and more.
@SunshineSkate twitter for The Sunshine Skate, another blog with special emphasis on advanced stats and charts that will make you dizzy.
@Zdenek_Janda US-based Czech reporter who covers the NHL and reports on other news for the people of the Czech Republic.
@Jsmidcro Jan Smid was a US-based Czech reporter who collaborated on “Jagr”, an autobiography in the late 90’s detailing Jagr’s early life and career in the NHL.
@NHLHistoryGirl This hockey loving woman shares interesting informational tidbits about hockey and the NHL in general. How does she do it?
@MyRegularFace She’s another gem. Watches lots of games and gets up GIFs faster than nhl.com or anyone else out there.
@HockeyCzech National organization for hockey in the Czech Republic.
@68isgr8 is the twitter for The Traveling Jagrs. Clad in different Jagr jerseys and hair styles from 68’s career, they gained league-wide recognition when they caught Jagr’s attention during a pre-game skate of a Dallas Stars game in Canada during the 2012-2013 season. Since then, they convene at games in Western Canada and make a road trip or two every year, playing street hockey with locals, posing for hundreds of pictures, and having a good time with fans while honoring an all-time NHL legend.
Ray Haluska aka Kladno Jagr, curator of the Jagr-O-Meter
https://twitter.com/CruisingRay or email ROKINRAY@AOL.COM