Jaromir Jagr fired off a slap shot Monday morning that caught Jonathan Huberdeau in the left skate and bounced into the back of the net.
Huberdeau raised his stick in the air to signify the goal even though there was no goalie to defend it, nor a single defenseman to challenge Jagr’s shot.
After going the first 14 games to start this season without a goal, Huberdeau will take what he can.
“The positives are I’m getting chances, but I really want a goal to get that confidence back,” said Huberdeau, Florida’s leading scorer last season who goes into Tuesday’s game against Calgary with six assists. “I know once the first one goes in, it will be much easier. I just need that first one and, hopefully, it comes soon. I just can’t overthink it.’’
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There is no lack of Huberdeau supporters in the Florida locker room nor a bigger fan of his than coach Gerard Gallant.
Gallant coached Huberdeau in the Canadian juniors both before and after the Panthers made him the third overall selection in 2011. Huberdeau lit up the Quebec junior league from 2010-13, scoring 89 goals in his final 134 games.
With the Panthers, Huberdeau hasn’t found that sort of scoring success with 38 goals in 210 games.
Last year, Huberdeau scored a career-high 15 goals — with six coming in his final 17 games.
“I really like the way he’s playing and even though he doesn’t have a goal, the past four or five games he’s competing, battling and getting scoring chances,’’ Gallant said. “He’s creating chances. I talked to him [Monday] and told him, ‘I know it’s frustrating but keep working hard, they’ll come.’
“If Jonathan was on the outside and not creating stuff, this would be a different issue. He’s playing a hard game, making plays around the net. They’ll go in sooner than later.’’
Huberdeau is getting his share of scoring chances leading to the old snake-bit adage. Losing center Sasha Barkov to a hand injury hasn’t helped either.
“I know from a personal perspective, if you’re not scoring, you try not to dwell on it but it’s still in the back of your head,’’ linemate Nick Bjugstad said. “You have to find ways to get by it. It’s a tough thing in sports, but every athlete goes through it. He’s doing other things, setting up plays, playing along the walls. Eventually it’s going to come.’’
The Panthers have continued to give Huberdeau the opportunity to play his way out of his slump. Last year, Gallant kept Huberdeau among his top six despite droughts of 10, 11 and 18 games.
Again this year, Huberdeau has stayed on Florida’s top line and his six assists do lead the team.
“I know I’m going to score at least one this year,’’ Huberdeau said with a grin.
For the Panthers to end their five-game losing streak and start making some serious noise in the East, they need Huberdeau to start putting some pucks in the net.
Like Monday morning, any way he can.
“We’re losing right now and I’m not really helping offensively,’’ Huberdeau said. “I know what I need to do, know I can do it. I’ve been telling myself to shoot more and it’s going to go in. Game 15 sounds like a good time for it.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Rookie Connor Brickley has been scratched the past three games after a strong start to his season.
“You obviously want to be in the lineup, do anything it takes to help the team win,’’ Brickley said. “I haven’t cracked the line the next three games, but I just have to stay positive, keep working hard in practice. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance.’’
Said Gallant: “He took some penalties we didn’t like in prior games. ... He just has to stay with it, compete hard. He needs to pick it up, get it going again.’’
▪ Center Dave Bolland was back centering his line Monday and is expected to play Tuesday.
Bolland injured his hand and missed two games after taking Ryan Kesler’s shot off it in the final seconds of Wednesday’s loss at Anaheim.
Tuesday: Flames at Panthers
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; 560 WQAM, 640 WMEN, 1210 WNMA.
Series: Calgary leads 13-9-3.
Scouting report: The Panthers kick off a span of playing seven of the next eight at home with all of those games within the state of Florida. Calgary, which has a league-worst 21-goal differential, has won its past two and three of four.