We’ve been waiting for long enough! After what feels like a whole year but was really just two weeks, the Panthers will return from the All-star game/ex-Olympic break tonight in Raleigh, NC. They will have no time to waste as they face off against one of the league’s top-five teams, the Carolina Hurricanes. With the game airing on TNT at 7:30 PM EST, it will be the team’s first appearance on national television this season (I refuse to count ESPN+/Hulu exclusive games as “national TV”). With the Panthers caught in a tight race for the Atlantic Division title, there are many things to keep an eye on as the team returns to the ice.

Who’s Hot?

Panthers
SUNRISE, FL – JANUARY 27: Mason Marchment #17 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his goal in the third period with teammates Anton Lundell #15 and Sam Reinhart #13 against the Vegas Golden Knights at the FLA Live Arena on January 27, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The short answer is everyone. But it would be disingenuous of me not to mention specific players on hot streaks. The usual suspects are riding point streaks as we enter tonight’s game. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov both have six points spread over the past four games (eight in five for Huby if you count the All-Star game), while Sam Reinhart has seven points in his last three games.

Mason Marchment (whom I wrote about previously) is on a heater to end all heaters with a whopping TWELVE points in the last five games, earning himself the NHL’s Third Star of the Week for the week ending Feb 6. Also gaining some recognition were Anton Lundell and Jonathan Huberdeau, who was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month and First Star of the Month, respectively, for the month of January. Watch out for those two as they make a run at the Calder Memorial and Hart trophies.

Who’s Not?

Panthers
SUNRISE, FL – NOVEMBER 20: Frank Vatrano #77 of the Florida Panthers gets a hug on the bench from teammate Owen Tippett #74 after scoring his second goal of the game against the Minnesota Wild at the FLA Live Arena on November 20, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before this section, I must apologize to Owen Tippett; I shouldn’t slander someone on their birthday. But Owen just hasn’t been able to put together a run of solid games. I feel he is being utilized in the complete WRONG way considering he was drafted as a pure goal-scoring sniper, yet he is being placed net-front on power plays. It just doesn’t make sense to me. And I would not be shocked if he ends up being traded before the deadline along with Frank Vatrano. I love both of them, but it might be time to part ways.

Who’s In?

Panthers
TAMPA, FLORIDA – MAY 20: Noel Acciari #55 of the Florida Panthers faces off during Game Three of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on May 20, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Hey guys! Look! It’s Noel Acciari! It’s been a while since we last saw Cookie on the ice. He hasn’t played since getting injured in the pre-season against the Lightning. One area the Panthers have been struggling in has been the faceoff circle. Hopefully, Acciari can help with that. Veteran Patric Hörnqvist will rejoin Ryan Lomberg and Eetu Luostarinen on The Chaos Line tonight. The Panthers also activated defenseman Olli Juolevi off IR today.

Who’s Out?

SUNRISE, FL – JANUARY 27: Goaltender Spencer Knight #30 of the Florida Panthers warms up on the ice prior to the start of the game against the Vegas Golden Knights at the FLA Live Arena on January 27, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Spencer Knight is spending some time dominating the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers. He should hopefully rejoin the team after this road trip. The team placed rookie Chase Priskie on IR ahead of tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury. Hopefully, he’s alright.

Thank you for reading my latest article for Belly Up Sports! You can follow me on Twitter! And you can find other great articles about the NHL throughout the Belly Up Sports site!
About Author

Noah Berger

Noah is a student at FIU concentrating in sports journalism. He currently holds the position of Chief Engagement Officer for FishStripes and is the Florida Panther’s beat writer for BellyUpSports. Noah is also an expert in all things trains, a huge New York Jets fan, and can build any Lego. Noah is also a Sabbath Observant Jew, so he will not respond back to you between Sunset on Friday and Sunset on Saturday.

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