FLORIDA PANTHERSThe Panthers snapped their three-game losing streak in a big way this week, taking five out of a possible six points from games against Dallas and Tampa Bay. The team’s trade deadline additions came up big in their most recent win against the Lightning on Saturday, with Brandon Montour (goal), Sam Bennett (two assists) and Nikita Gusev (one assist) all finding the score sheet.
Florida, which leapfrogged Tampa Bay to place second in the Central Division heading into this week, plays a back-to-back set against Columbus starting Monday before a big two-game set against first-place Carolina, a team they have struggled to beat this season, on Thursday and Saturday. The race for first in the division will be one to watch down the stretch, as the winner will get to take on whichever team finishes a distant fourth while the No. 2 and 3 seeds will go head-to-head in what should be the toughest first-round match-up in the league.
Lucas Wallmark was back in the lineup for Florida’s last two games, effectively taking the place of Eetu Luostarinen. Rounding out former Checkers in Florida, Gustav Forsling continues to play a big role on the team’s top defensive pairing and quarterbacked their overtime winner against Dallas on Tuesday.
FRANKIE. VATRANO.— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 14, 2021
FOREVER IN THE CLUTCH! pic.twitter.com/niZnizxN6b
SYRACUSE CRUNCHThe Crunch opened the week up with a pair of tough losses against the Utica Comets – one of which saw Panthers prospect Samuel Montembeault make 42 saves and still lose 5-1 – before rebounding to defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday. In terms of points percentage, the Crunch now rank fourth in the North.
The Panthers made a handful of transactions with Syracuse to refresh the fringes of their NHL roster over the course of the week. Forward Aleksi Heponiemi and defensemen Brady Keeper and Lucas Carlsson are all headed to the Crunch, while forwards Cole Schwindt and Scott Wilson are now on the Panthers’ taxi squad. Additionally, the Crunch recalled defensive prospect Alec Rauhauser from Greenville and gave him his AHL debut on Saturday.
GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITSThe Swamp Rabbits won two out of three games to make it a productive road trip against the first-place Florida Everblades last week. Those hard-fought points, earned with two straight wins after dropping the first meeting, give Greenville some much-needed breathing room in the race to secure a playoff spot. They are now seven points clear of fifth-place South Carolina, which has three games in hand.
Panthers prospect Ryan Bednard continued to star in goal for the Swamp Rabbits. After stopping all 10 shots he faced in a relief appearance in Wednesday’s loss, he made 30 saves in Friday’s 4-2 victory and then put up a 19-save shutout on Saturday. He leads the league with 18 wins and four shutouts and ranks tied for fourth with a 2.46 goals-against average.
?BITS WIN?— Greenville Swamp Rabbits (@SwampRabbits) April 18, 2021
Ryan Bednard was sensational again and recorded his ECHL-best 4th shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over Florida!! Here are the game highlights presented by @AndersonUnivSC online & continuous learning pic.twitter.com/xVaDL5Raag
IN OTHER NEWS
- Nicolas Roy has five goals for the Vegas Golden Knights this season – three of which have come in his last four games. A regular player on one of the NHL’s top teams, Roy teamed up with fellow 2019 Calder Cup champion Tomas Jurco on his first goal of the week last Monday.
Jurco to Roy! Party like it’s 2019! https://t.co/kP9Zo9LQdd— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) April 13, 2021
- Injuries to other Sabres goaltenders continue to give Dustin Tokarski an opportunity to play regularly for the Buffalo Sabres. In three starts last week, he went 2-1-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. His victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday was his first in the NHL since Dec. 12, 2015.
- Tokarski’s partner on the 2019 cup team, Alex Nedeljkovic, stopped 27 of 28 shots to beat the Nashville Predators on Saturday. He and his flow have won both of their starts since the return of Petr Mrazek from injury, allowing just one goal.
Hair care ? pic.twitter.com/GW6G79UmYq— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) April 17, 2021
- Continuing the Checkers’ goaltending tree, Nedeljkovic’s partner from last season, Anton Forsberg, earned another victory for the Ottawa Senators by stopping 24 of 26 last Monday. His gear is gradually starting to match his team.
- Over to Europe, former Checkers defenseman Oliwer Kaski scored twice in Game 7, including the overtime winner, to send Omsk of the KHL into the Gagarin Cup Final. Another former Checker, Sergey Tolchinsky, leads the entire KHL playoffs in scoring with 18 points in 19 games and had the primary assist on Kaski’s winner. Omsk currently leads CSKA 1-0 in the final.
- The KHL’s website has this interview with former Checkers captain Michal Jordan, who served in that same role for Amur last season.
- Once again, former Checkers Andrew Poturalski and Ryan Murphy enter the week as the AHL leaders in scoring by a forward and a defenseman, respectively.
- Aleksi Saarela finished his regular season in Finland with 23 goals. That’s good for fifth in the league, even though he missed time to injury and the players ahead of him played at least 15 more games. He had a goal and an assist to help Lukko win its first playoff game.