Heading into training camp, there wasn’t much doubt the Panthers had a loaded top-six line.
Among Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Evgneii Dadovov, Nick Bjugstad and Mike Hoffman, Florida had no shortage of firepower. The question was whether they could put the pieces in place and replicate their stellar end to last season.
While Florida stumbled out of the gate this year, the Panthers are beginning to pick up steam — thanks in part to a line change that’s electrified their first unit.
Since moving Huberdeau onto first with Barkov and Hoffman, the Panthers are 3-1-1 with the trio combining for 15 points entering Thursday night’s game versus the Avalanche.
Huberdeau in particular has been dominant over the past two weeks. The 25-year-old winger has notched six consecutive multi-point games, totaling three goals and five assists since the switch.
“The instant chemistry [of the new line] – the history you can see,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “I think one of the reasons we made that switch a few weeks ago was Barkov’s line was getting its chances, but weren’t getting a ton of zone time, so we tried to experiment with them and you can see they’re not just getting chances off of the rush, they’re getting more time in the other team’s end. Real good job by [Huberdeau] getting back on that line and producing.”
Barkov has tallied five points (two goals, three assists), while Hoffman has scored two goals since the line change.
In his seventh year with the Panthers, Huberdeau moved up to No. 4 on the team’s all-time scoring list during Tuesday’s win versus Boston. With his three-point performance, he surpassed Nathan Horton to give him 298 for his career.
While the revamped first line has excelled, the Cats have been getting strong play from their second line — specifically Dadonov. While the 29-year-old started the season on first,cheap florida panthers jersey he’s been a stalwart contributor on the second unit. With 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists), the winger is Florida’s No. 2 scorer entering Tuesday night.
Dadonov’s continued strong play has been especially key after Trocheck — an All-Star last season — suffered a fractured ankle in November.
“We talk about out Dadonov all the time,” Boughner said. “You can see his stats this year – just one of those guys consistently maintenance-free. He’s not worried about who’s he’s playing with, where he’s playing. He just wants to go out and play hockey and he wants to be the best player on the ice every night and he’s done that.
“As much as you talk about Hubey and Barky, you can’t dismiss the fact how Dadonov’s play on that other line too. It’s nice to have that unselfishness and a guy that’s willing to put the team first.”