Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle scored his 100th career goal and kept his consecutive games streak alive in their season-opening win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, just days after it appeared he might be a healthy scratch.
Yandle scored the second goal in the Panthers’ 5-2 home victory over the Blackhawks, emphatically celebrating to the delight of his teammates.
The 34-year-old defenseman played 16:41 for the night in his 867th consecutive NHL game, which is the fourth-longest streak in NHL history. Doug Jarvis has the NHL record at 964 games.
“For me, it was just being ready to go, being ready for my time to get the chance. Scoring that goal kind of helped solidified the work that I put in to be ready to go,” said Yandle.
Last week, coach Joel Quenneville indicated there was a good chance Yandle’s streak would end with a healthy scratch for the Panthers’ first game. He cited the need to evaluate the team’s young defensemen.
Yandle has three seasons remaining at a $6.35 million cap hit on the seven-year, $44.45 million deal he signed with the Panthers in 2016. TSN reported that Yandle had “fallen out of favor” with the team and didn’t factor into their plans this season. Complicating matters: Yandle has a full no-movement clause.
“With 29 players [on the roster], the closeness of making these decisions is going to be part of making some jockeying around coming into games,” said Quenneville after the game. “I was happy for him. And the bench was lit up as well. It’s one of those moments where you look back at it and you can have a big smile.”
Yandle said it was a relief when he was told that he was in the lineup on Sunday.
“Any time you get a chance to put on an NHL jersey and continue to play, it’s a special thing,” he said.
The Panthers play their next game on Tuesday night against Chicago. Quenneville, who praised Yandle’s work on the Florida power play, hoped everyone could move on from the tense days leading up to the game.
“Let’s move forward here. Let’s push each other in a positive way and be the best that we can be together,” he said.