71ºF

First Panthers road trip could provide opportunity for Denis Malgin to stick in lineup

Quenneville moves Hoffman to line with Barkov and Huberdeau

Florida's Denis Malgin prepares to take a shot against the New York Islanders in the first period at Barclays Center on March 26, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – The Florida Panthers departed from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Thursday afternoon following a spirited morning practice at the Ice Den in Coral Springs. 

It was the second straight day that the pace of practice, something head coach Joel Quenneville highlights on what feels like a daily basis, was turned up a notch. 

Falling behind 4-0 in the first period of a game tends to have that effect. 

Quenneville, famous for not being afraid to shake things up, tossed his forward lines in the blender this week and it appears that some of the changes will stick when Florida opens its three-game road trip Friday night in Buffalo. 

If so, it will be the third forward combination used by Quenneville in four games this season. 

"Over the course of a season, even over short periods of time, everybody is going to play with everybody," Quenneville said Thursday. "Whether it's an extended shift or a short shift, you're going to be out on the ice with some guys making plays that are not your traditional (linemates)."

Denis Malgin, a wild card player for Florida this year, was on an untraditional line with Evgenii Dadonov and Jayce Hawryluk during practice this week. 

Malgin was dressed for opening night in Tampa but has been a healthy scratch in the two games since.

Discussing his season up to this point, the fourth-year pro couldn't have been more positive and upbeat. 

"I played in the first game, and it went good," Malgin said after Thursday's practice. "I felt good, but we lost, so (Quenneville) made a change. That's normal. That's hockey life. Since then, I'm just trying to do my best in practice and get my chance to play again."

Should he be given that chance Friday, it will likely be back at his natural position of center. 

Malgin said it doesn't matter where he lines up, he's just excited to get out there and help his team win. 

"I feel good and confident," he said with a grin. 

Still, it helps that he can slide to any spot on a line and has just as much upside as a defensive forward as he does as a scorer. 

"I love that versatility," Quenneville said of Malgin. "I like having the flexibility of being a winger, and you're able to take faceoffs, or play center and play the wing, so in the course of a game, you could be (productive) in two different spots."

Florida's Denis Malgin is congratulated after scoring his first NHL goal against the Boston Bruins at the BB&T Center on Nov. 1, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 2-1.

As is the case with most young players trying to stick in the NHL, consistency is key. 

When at his best, Malgin is a solid two-way center with above-average creativity and vision in the offensive end. 

Unfortunately, his best just hasn't shown up enough to this point. 

For the smooth-skating Malgin, that could change in Quenneville's defense-first, quick-transition system. 

"I like it," Malgin said when asked about the team's new style of play. "I feel good, and the new coaches are good. We are playing good hockey, and it's a good system."

However things shake out for the 22-year-old this season, he couldn't have a more mature approach for someone so young. 

"That's professional hockey," Malgin said. "(Being scratched) can always happen to you. I'm just looking forward and having fun."

HOFFMAN PROMOTED

Another modification expected for Friday's game is the addition of Mike Hoffman to the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. 

Quenneville tried it out during the final two periods of Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Carolina, and the trio remained together through the week of practice. 

"They've all got some terrific upside with play recognition (and) patience with the puck," Quenneville said. "Hoff's got a big shot, Huby can make plays, Barky's everywhere, so it does a little bit of everything. (It) should have all the ingredients to be effective."

Hoffman leads the Panthers with six points (4-2-6) through three games this season. 


About the Author: