The Buzzer: Check out the Florida Panthers (Around the NHL on Friday)

The Buzzer: Check out the Florida Panthers (Around the NHL on Friday)
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NHL Three Stars from Friday

1. Nino Niederreiter, Carolina Hurricanes

Last season had to be a little frustrating for Nino Niederreiter. After scoring 14 goals and 30 points in 36 games games with the Hurricanes following the Victor Rask trade in 2018-19, last season wasn’t kind to Niederreiter. He only scored 11 goals while finishing with 29 points in 67 games.

As cold as Niederreiter was shooting-wise in 2019-20, he has the magic touch so far this season. Niederreiter scored two goals on three shots on goal on Friday, pushing him to nine goals on just 43 SOG (just a hair under 21 shooting percentage). Niederreiter also tossed in an assist, giving him his second assist of the season (11 points in 15 games).

It’s early, but the Hurricanes offense is looking intriguing in 2020-21. You’d expect strong work from Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. The more promising thing is that other Hurricanes scorers are stepping up. Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, and Jordan Staal are all seemingly turning back the clock to times of better production.

With that, the Hurricanes are now 11-3-1 (23 points), which would leave them atop the Central Division if it weren’t for …

2. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

… the Florida Panthers? Yup, after a 7-2 rout of the Red Wings, the Florida Panthers improved to 11-2-2 (24 points), earning the top spot in the Central Division. Yes, those Florida Panthers.

When it comes to Florida Panthers stepping up, Aleksander Barkov isn’t too big of a surprise.

Like Niederreiter, Barkov collected three points on Friday. In Barkov’s case, he scored a goal and two assists. This latest outburst leaves Barkov at six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 15 games this season. He’s been feeling it lately, in particular, as Barkov extended his point streak to three games (2G, 4A).

Now, you might ding Barkov for collecting some of his points in “garbage time.” In that case, maybe you’d prefer Keith Yandle, who generated two of his three assists when the game was in some realm of doubt.

Like the Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers are also enjoying some strong play from supporting scorers. Anthony Duclair‘s really found great chemistry with Barkov, while Patric Hornqvist stayed hot in his own right with two goals. (Somewhere, Penguins fans are grumbling.)

Are the Florida Panthers for real? The jury’s still out, but it’s probably at least time to take Florida seriously.

Oh, and yes, Jonathan Huberdeau chipped in as usual.

3. Laurent Brossoit, Winnipeg Jets

For the second time in his NHL career, Laurent Brossoit pitched a shutout. Amusingly, both took place against the Vancouver Canucks.

In Friday’s case, Brossoit stopped all 29 shots to earn that shutout. While the Jets won 2-0, that score was inflated by an empty-net goal. Brossoit needed to be perfect to gain this victory in regulation, and he delivered the goose egg.

Back in 2018-19, Brossoit was red-hot. He managed a 40-save shutout against the Canucks on Dec. 22, 2018, a standout moment from a seven-game winning streak. That season marked an easy-to-forget time when Connor Hellebuyck looked mortal, and Brossoit seemed to have at least a shot at earning more starts.

Instead, Brossoit’s firmly a backup, while Hellebuyck has been incredible. Nights like these might earn Brossoit more reps — and Hellebuyck more rest — though.

Highlights of the night for Friday in the NHL

For Friday in the NHL, some of the most exciting highlights came from players in losing causes.

First, an entertaining goal from Patrick Kane. It starts with a puck going off the post, then a moment of humanity, as Kane stumbled. To put things mildly, Kane regained his footing, and then did … well, this:

While Jacob Markstrom‘s more or less delivered as the Flames hoped, David Rittich hasn’t been so great. Perhaps the problem is that “Big Save Dave” doesn’t make enough of the small and medium-sized stops?

Could be, but the Flames didn’t really provide him much “run support” against the Oilers on Friday. So saves like these are great for highlight reels, but not enough for a W.

Stat of the night

Beating Rittich and the Flames had to be that much sweeter for the Oilers, being that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl couldn’t get on the board.

Friday’s NHL scores

Hurricanes 5, Blackhawks 3
Panthers 7, Red Wings 2
Oilers 2, Flames 1
Jets 2, Canucks 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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