Sat, 22 Feb 2020

Panthers have 'Q' factor as they visit Blackhawks

Field Level Media
21 Jan 2020, 16:19 GMT+10

It isn't every night that an opposing coach draws all the attention of Chicago Blackhawks fans.

Then again, it's not every night that Joel Quenneville comes back to town.

Quenneville, who won three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago before he was fired early last season, will return to the United Center for the first time since his ouster when the Florida Panthers visit the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

The no-nonsense taskmaster remains a fan favorite in Chicago and figures to hear his familiar ovation -- a low, drawn-out "Q" -- when he is shown from the visitors' bench.

The 61-year-old coach is in his first season with the Panthers. He is No. 2 in NHL history with 916 wins behind the bench, and he brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

"I know I had a lot of great days," Quenneville said to reporters. "It was always fun walking into the 'UC' and doing your thing. It's a whole different animal coming in with (the Panthers), but the moments are special there, and the people around the building and the team, the Blackhawks, their staff and players. Certainly, great memories."

The Blackhawks believed that they could rejuvenate a slumping team by replacing Quenneville with Jeremy Colliton, who was only 33 years old when he got the job. But the same inconsistency that marked Quenneville's final days in Chicago has continued under Colliton.

With 54 points in 50 games, the Blackhawks are three points off the pace for what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have plenty of time to make up that ground but will need to avoid the cold spells that have plagued them at times throughout the season.

Chicago is on a hot streak now, though, with victories in five consecutive games. The Blackhawks' offense has come alive, producing 15 goals in the past three contests.

Patrick Kane leads the way with 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 50 games. He will play for the first time since reaching the 1,000-point milestone with an assist Sunday in Chicago's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

"What a moment, obviously, with everyone coming onto the ice and sharing that moment with me," Kane told reporters. "You see some faces in the pile that have been a big part of a lot of those points, whether it's been (Jonathan Toews) or (Duncan Keith) or (Alex DeBrincat) recently. ...

"I'll never forget that moment, and I told the team that afterward."

Florida, like Chicago, is riding a five-game winning streak, having scored at least four goals in each of those contests. The Panthers scored three goals in the third period Monday night and pulled out a 5-4 road win over the Minnesota Wild.

Noel Acciari scored the go-ahead goal for Florida with 5.6 seconds to go. It was his 18th of the season, which is tied for second on the team behind only Evgenii Dadonov, who scored his 22nd on Monday.

Florida could turn to Sergei Bobrovsky in net for a second night in a row after he made 29 saves to earn the victory over Minnesota. Otherwise, Sam Montembeault is available as a No. 2 option.

The Blackhawks have a pair of veteran options in net, Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford. Lehner got the win Sunday with 36 saves against the Jets after Crawford stopped 31 shots in a 6-2 win at Toronto on Saturday.

--Field Level Media

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