There’s a sudden sense of urgency for the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy last season for having the NHL’s best pre-playoffs record, are currently one point out of a playoff spot with 23 games remaining.
Following a 2-2 road trip, the Panthers are back home to face the Anaheim Ducks on Monday afternoon in Sunrise, Fla.
The Ducks have lost four straight games, and they are the type of opponent the Panthers need to defeat without fail. Every point is crucial.
In the battle for the two wild-card playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers entered play Sunday as one of six teams within three points of each other, a list that is made up of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have to get points in every single game,” Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “We have to get wins. We have to win way more than the majority of our remaining games to get into the playoffs.
“Every game is like a playoff game for us the rest of the way.”
Tkachuk has been doing his part, leading the Panthers with 76 points and ranking second in goals (28). Carter Verhaeghe leads Florida in goals (29) and ranks second in points (51).
In net, Florida’s starter is Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 16-15-2 with a 3.13 goals-against average. However, he was pulled in the second period of Florida’s 7-3 loss at the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon.
“I got (Bobrovsky) out of there because I didn’t think it was going to be a goaltending game,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “He’s played a lot of hockey. So we gave him a little rest and got (backup) Spencer (Knight) some work.”
Indeed, Knight got into just his second game since Jan. 8, and he made 12 saves on 14 shots. For the season, Knight is 9-8-3 with a 3.18 GAA.
Anaheim’s starting goalie is John Gibson, a 29-year-old veteran who is 10-23-5 with a 4.08 GAA. His 23 losses are the most in the NHL this season, and his GAA stat line is on pace to be the worst of his NHL career, which started in 2013-14.
Gibson, a former second-round draft pick who has spent his entire career with the Ducks, had a winning record in each of his first six years in the league. But he is now headed toward his fourth straight losing season.
The Ducks haven’t played since a 6-3 home loss on Friday to their top rival, the Los Angeles Kings.
“Another game where we shot ourselves in the foot,” Gibson said of that loss.
Ducks forward Trevor Zegras will enter Monday’s game on a four-game points streak (one goal, three assists). He leads the Ducks with 47 points and is tied with Adam Henrique for the club high in goals (19).
But Troy Terry, who leads the Ducks with 29 assists, was placed on injured reserve earlier this month due to an upper-body injury.
Florida’s biggest injury concerns are forward Sam Bennett and defenseman Radko Gudas. The status for both players is day-to-day.
–Field Level Media