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CRACKS OF DON: Cats purring out of the gate with not one Q but two

Goaltender Collin Delia #60 of the Chicago Blackhawks turns away the shot by Patric Hornqvist #70 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 17, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida.
Goaltender Collin Delia #60 of the Chicago Blackhawks turns away the shot by Patric Hornqvist #70 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 17, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida.

Hard to believe, but in this, their 27th season of play, the Florida Panthers have a 3-0-0 record for the very first time.

What took them so long?

Mind you, the Panthers don’t exactly have a glowing resume. They’ve always been the ugly stepsister of the two teams that reside in the Sunshine State.

They made it to the Stanley Cup final in 1995-96, just their third year, but have been to the playoffs only five times since then. And not once in that handful of visits have they won a series.

Still, they do have five, 40-plus victories seasons, including a franchise best 47-26-9 mark in 2015-16.

And three wins out of the gate is not the same as shooting a round of golf in the 70s. It’s breaking 100.

How has it taken a team that played its first games in 1993 until now to keep the ball on the course?

Certainly, the power of Q has made a difference.

But in the 2019-20 season, his first behind the Florida bench, Joel Quenneville won onlone of his first five games before getting things straightened around and guiding the Panthers to a 35-26-8 record, followed by their first playoff berth in five seasons.

Turns out what the black Cats really needed to start off on the right foot was the Double Q.

QQ or Q2, if you will.

Acquired from the Penguins for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour in September, Patric HornQvist has four goals and an assist in the three games.

And in that third game, against the Blue Jackets, he rolled lucky threes, tying it up at 3-3 with three seconds left in the third period.

Hornqvist then ended the night with his shootout goal in the fifth round.

“He’s been huge for us so far and he’s going to be huge for us the whole season,” said Florida captain Aleksander Barkov. “That leadership he brings in the locker room, and by scoring big goals for us, just leading the way. It helps us a lot to have a veteran guy like him.”

So yeah, bringing in experienced players in their 30s can be a good idea.

If, like Hornqvist, they still have some game.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Columbus native Jack Roslovic will debut with his hometown team Thursday when the Blue Jackets host the Panthers at Nationwide Arena. Obtained along with Patrik Laine from the Jets for Pierre-Luc Dubois last weekend, the former 25th overall draft pick has a shot to earn a top-six role with the Blue Jackets. He skated on a line with Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson on Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity but I’ve got to really earn my spot,” said Roslovic, who had asked for a trade out of Winnipeg. “I’ve got to play my game and I do have a lot to show. I know (the trade) set a fire under me and I’m super excited to play with the guys. I think we have an exceptional team and to be able to come in and be a big piece of it is super important.” The pressure will really be on Dubois if, along with the 40-50 the Jackets get from Laine each season, Roslovic starts scoring 20-25 a year.

ONE TIMERS: The Penguins have signed veteran free agent D Yannick Weber to a one-year, $700,000 deal … The Avalanche will be without G Pavel Francouz (lower body) and LW Matt Calvert (upper body) indefinitely …. Blues C Tyler Bozak will not play against the Golden Knights on Thursday because of an upper body injury …. Bruins LW Jake DeBrusk will miss Thursday’s game against the Penguins and is day-to-day with a lower body injury …

PERSONALLY SPEAKING: Jim Rutherford use to have all the time in the world for a reporter calling from Ottawa when he was GM of the Windsor Compuware Spitfires in the late 1980s. Almost 20 years later, he heard from his friend Bryan Murray that same reporter was in North Carolina on a golf trip with friends. His Hurricanes were hosting Ottawa during their visit. “How many tickets do you need?” asked Rutherford. Well, we were going to buy 12. The next day at will call a dozen in the lower bowl were waiting for us, au gratis . He didn’t have to do that. But Rutherford, a former goalie who was selected before Ivan Boldirev, Bobby Clarke and Butch Goring in the 1969 amateur draft, is a nice man. He’s also won three Stanley Cups, an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup during a career that put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. We’re glad his sudden resignation as GM of the Penguins Wednesday was not due to health reasons, and while the NHL world is a better place with him in it, if he wants to step away because he’s had enough, good for him. He deserves some feet-up-on-the-porch time. That said, we will not be surprised if Rutherford resurfaces with another team after this season. Perhaps north of the border. Maybe in his native Ontario.

REMEMBERING THIS DATE: Exactly 37 years ago the Los Angeles Kings became the first team to keep Wayne Gretzky off the scoresheet all season. The Great One’s NHL record point streak lasted 51 games and included 61 goals, 92 assists, 153 points. Yeah, just stupid numbers … Exactly 33 years ago Marcel Dionne became the first player in NHL history to score 20 goals in each of his first 17 seasons. Sometimes we forget how good the “Little Beaver” was. He also scored more than 50 goals in five straight seasons (1978-83) and, in a 1,348-game career, finished with 731 goals, 1040 assists and 1,771 points. Dionne also never made it past the second round of the playoffs … Gretzky never had 17, 20-goal seasons but he did have 40 or more in 12 straight … Turning another year older today are Paul Henderson (78), Colin Campbell (68), Mark Napier (64), Stan Smyl (63) and Daniel Carcillo (36).

BACK TO THE POINT: Still days before his first meeting with the team he captained for 14 years, Capitals defenceman Zdeno Chara reminded reporters of his one-day-at-a-time focus. Whatever emotions Chara might be dealing with as he stepped on the ice to face the Bruins, he wasn’t about to consider. “I’m where my feet are,” he said. “So right now, I don’t know what it’s going to be like Saturday.” (An interesting aside: did you know Chara wears a size 11 skate? You’d think a man who stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 250 pounds would have bigger feet). Chara, 43, signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 after the Bruins offered him a contact, but with a likely reduced role. To a proud man such as he, that would be offensive. “I see this as an opportunity,” he said of playing in Washington. “I think this is an opportunity that I can join a team that has high expectations, a team that has certain beliefs.” Of course he’s not going to say it, but Saturday’s game against his old team will be a very big deal to the very big man.

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