Home NHL Yandle's 866-game streak may continue in Panthers' season opener – NHL.com
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Yandle's 866-game streak may continue in Panthers' season opener – NHL.com

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Keith Yandle is expected to play and extend his streak of consecutive NHL games to 867 when the Florida Panthers open their season against the Chicago Blackhawks at BB&T Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVAS, SN, FS-F, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).

Coach Joel Quenneville confirmed Sunday that Yandle will be in the starting lineup, two days after saying it was unlikely the defenseman would be among top-six rotation for the Panthers. That changed Saturday in the final practice of training camp when Yandle joined the game group for the second part of practice and stood out in the special teams portion.

“We have some make some tough decisions along the way, but I think whether it’s teammates or himself, he handled it,” Quenneville said. “He moved forward, he controlled what he could control, and that’s to make himself as best he could and as ready as possible. We know that his composure and his playmaking ability at the top on a power-play situation would not be comprised. In fact, it could even be enhanced.”

Yandle, who has the longest current games played streak in the NHL, has not missed a game since March 22, 2009, when he was with the Arizona Coyotes. He has played every game for the past 11 seasons, including 69 in 2019-20 before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The streak is the fourth-longest in NHL history behind Doug Jarvis (964), Garry Unger (914) and Steve Larmer (884).

Yandle scored 45 points (five goals, 40 assists) last season, including 21 points on the power play, which was the eighth-highest total among NHL defensemen. In 976 NHL games, Yandle has scored 573 points (99 goals, 474 assists), including 264 points (37 goals, 227 assists) on the power play.

Despite those credentials, Florida was strongly considering making the 34-year-old a healthy scratch.

“Obviously everybody wants to play, but we’ve got some tough decisions and that’s been one right now that if we have to [make it on] Sunday, he’s not going to be in the lineup,” Quenneville said on the NHL @TheRink podcast Friday.

“We’re looking at a lot of young guys here coming into camp. The opportunity for him right now is a little tight right now and tough, but things could change quickly in our business. In the course of a season like this year you never know, you might have to go 10 or 11 deep on the back end. That’s where it’s at. So it’s a situation where his spot, it’s not where he wants to be.”

Florida was scheduled to start the season with back-to-back home games against the Dallas Stars on Thursday and Friday, but those were postponed because of coronavirus issues related to the Stars.

The Panthers game group that Yandle joined on Saturday included defensemen Aaron Ekblad, MacKenzie Weegar, Riley Stillman, Anton Stralman, Radko Gudas and Gustav Forsling. The other defensemen on the roster are Markus Nutivaara, Brady Keeper, Kevin Connauton and Noah Juulsen.

“Right now, we have 11 defensemen,” Quenneville said Friday. “We picked up two guys on waivers this week. We’ve got a lot of sorting out to do. I was talking to Yands earlier, when you look at the 11, you could say one through 11, how would you rate them, and I think everyone will have a different number next to them. I think a lot of decisions are close.”

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau (854) has the next longest consecutive games played streak after Yandle. He has not missed a game since April 7, 2009.

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