Carolina Hurricanes’ perfect record to finally face a real test in Florida Panthers

Panthers look to take down Hurricanes

Hurricanes Panthers
Apr 24, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) and Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) face-off during the second period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes are 9-0-0, tying them with the 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens for the second-longest, season-opening win streak in NHL history.

If anyone can spoil that Hurricanes run, it could be the Florida Panthers. They will host Carolina on Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Florida is off to a 9-0-1 start, and the Hurricanes and Panthers are considered the top two teams in hockey at the moment.

Hurricanes ready for Panthers

“That’s going to be a tough game — we know that,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The Hurricanes have six former Rangers on their roster, including controversial defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who is third on the team with 10 points. The other ex-Rangers are forwards Derek Stepan and Jesper Fast; backup goalie Antti Raanta; and defenseman Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith.

Smith is expected to make his season debut tonight.

Carolina also has former Panthers center Vincent Trocheck, who offers terrific speed.

But the keys to the team are home-grown forwards Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and well-traveled goalie Frederik Andersen. Aho has a team-high three power-play goals; Svechnikov tops the squad in points (13) and goals (seven); and Andersen has been nothing short of brilliant.

Andersen, who signed as a free agent after bolting from the Toronto Maple Leafs, was supposed to share duties with Raanta. But Andersen has earned eight of the nine starts due to his remarkable play (8-0-0 record, 1.50 goals-against average and .949 save percentage).

Panthers haven’t skipped a beat

Florida Panthers
Oct 25, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Anthony Duclair (10) celebrates his empty net goal against the Arizona Coyotes with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar (52) and left wing Carter Verhaeghe (23) during the third period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette, who led his team to a 5-4 overtime win over the visiting Washington Capitals on Thursday night, wasn’t quite ready to talk about Carolina.

“That was an exhausting game,” Brunette said after Florida blew a 4-1 lead in the final 22 minutes before scoring in OT. “I can’t even think (about Carolina yet). I’m just going to enjoy this one.”

Once Brunette does turn his attention to the Hurricanes, his first task will be to decide who will be his starting goalie on Saturday night. Veteran Sergei Bobrovsky left Thursday’s game after just one period due to an upper-body injury.

Panthers rookie goalie Spencer Knight finished off the win and is expected to start again on Saturday.

Both goalies are highly capable. Bobrovsky is 6-0-0 with a 1.72 GAA and a .948 save percentage. Knight is 3-0-1 with a 2.65 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

The Panthers also have a hot scorer in Aleksander Barkov, their team captain. Barkov has seven goals this season, including five in his past three games.

Barkov, who has played 539 games, has 188 career goals, tying him with Olli Jokinen for the most in Panthers history. Jokinen played 567 games for the Panthers.

Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers with nine assists, and he is tied with Barkov for tops on the team with 12 points. Huberdeau also leads the team with four power-play assists.

Besides Bobrovsky, the Panthers are a bit banged up as they played Thursday’s game without top-six forward Sam Bennett and fourth-line-type grinders Joe Thornton and Noel Acciari. The same is true for defenseman Radko Gudas, one of Florida’s toughest players.

The Hurricanes are without second-line winger Nino Niederreiter and depth defenseman Jake Gardiner.

–Field Level Media