Anthony Duclair is back and making a difference.
That’s good news for the Florida Panthers, who will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night in Sunrise, Fla.
Duclair, a winger who missed this season’s first 60 games following foot surgery, was impressive in Florida’s 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.
Playing just his fifth game of the season, Duclair had one assist in that game, but there was more to it than that point. While Duclair was on the ice 5-on-5 against Vegas, the Panthers had a 17-3 advantage on shot attempts and 12-0 in scoring chances.
Duclair, who has elite speed, scored a career-high 31 goals last season. He is now playing on a line with captain Aleksander Barkov at center and Eetu Luostarinen on the other wing.
Luostarinen has already reached career highs in goals (15) and points (34) with 17 games remaining.
The Panthers are also excited about bottom-six forward Ryan Lomberg, who has matched his career high with nine goals. The 28-year-old went undrafted, but he has been valuable to the Panthers, who signed him away from the Calgary Flames in October 2020.
On Tuesday, Lomberg was the game’s first star, posting one goal, one block and three hits.
“He plays with so much energy and speed,” Panthers forward Nick Cousins said of Lomberg. “He’s tough on defenses.”
Florida is also relying on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who has started 12 of the past 13 games. That’s the heaviest workload for any NHL goalie during that span.
The Panthers on Friday will try for just their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 28-Feb. 9. That three-game streak still stands as the longest winning stretch for a squad that won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2022.
Meanwhile, Chicago has lost five of its past six games. The rebuilding Blackhawks are in last place in the Western Conference with just 49 points.
The Blackhawks were sellers at the trading deadline, sending away first-line forwards Patrick Kane and Max Domi, among others.
A bright spot for the Blackhawks is five-time All-Star defenseman Seth Jones, who has scored four goals in his past four games.
“Sometimes you get streaky,” Jones said.
The fourth overall pick in the NHL’s 2013 draft, Jones has 10 goals this season — six short of his career high set in 2017-18.
The Blackhawks are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Chicago blew a 2-0 lead in that game as Blackhawks goalie Alex Stalock — who made 37 saves — couldn’t hold off Detroit.
“Whatever we did to prepare for that game, it wasn’t enough for the NHL,” Chicago first-year coach Luke Richardson said.
Stalock, 35, has been Chicago’s best goalie this season, going 7-8-1 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.70 goals-against average.
However, Stalock is 0-5-0 on the road this season.
Chicago’s other goalie is Petr Mrazek, who is 8-18-2 with an .891 save percentage and a 3.74 GAA. That’s on pace for a career-high GAA for Mrazek, 31.
Both Stalock and Mrazek are in their first seasons with Chicago.
–Field Level Media