Panthers push to stay perfect at home vs. Wild

National Sports

Home has indeed been sweet for the Florida Panthers.

On a franchise-best 9-0-0 start at home, the Panthers look to keep rolling when they host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

“We put an emphasis on playing well at home,” forward Anthony Duclair said. “We want to put an honest effort every time we play here, and we want to keep it going here at home.”

The team has scored at least four goals in each home game so far and has averaged an NHL-best 3.9 goals per game regardless of venue.

“When you’re playing at home, you feel more comfortable,” forward Frank Vatrano said. “You know the bounces, you know the ice, you know everything. You’ve got the fans behind you. We’re always comfortable playing here and we love it.”

Despite the loss of captain Aleksander Barkov, who is week-to-week with a lower-body injury, the Panthers have the talent and depth to weather his absence. Winger Jonathan Huberdeau has three goals and an assist in a three-game point streak. He leads the Panthers with 11 assists and moved into a tie with Barkov for the team scoring lead (17 points) with a goal and an assist in their win against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

“With Huby’s skill and his IQ level, just find the open space and he’ll give it a rip,” Duclair said.

The Wild arrive in town fresh off a convincing 7-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday after falling 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

“We played the right way and we loved how we responded,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It’s great to get seven goals but we did it the right way. We played team first. We weren’t extending our shifts. We weren’t individually trying to score. We were scoring the right way, and that was certainly nice for us to see and obviously nice for the group to get rewarded when they do that.”

The Wild have won six of their past eight games, scoring at least four goals in each of those wins. They’ve scored at least three goals in 10 of their 11 wins so far this season.

Kirill Kaprizov had one goal and three assists for a career-best four-point night after Evason split up the dynamic winger and long-time linemate Mats Zuccarello for the game against Dallas. The 24-year-old sophomore forward is the fourth Wild player in the past 15 years to record four points in a game at age 24 or younger.

“He’s a hard worker every time get gets on the ice,” Zuccarello said. “Sometimes you have to see beyond the goals and assists and see what he creates and how hard he works for the team.”

“I just tried to play hockey,” Kaprizov said. “I just tried to play my game and do the best I could every single night, and what happens, happens.”

Minnesota has scored 56 goals through 16 games, with an average of 3.44 goals per game that ranked fourth in the NHL heading into play Friday.

–Field Level Media

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