Panthers try to punch playoff ticket again at Predators

NHL Hockey

The Florida Panthers will once again try and clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night when they visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

This is the second consecutive game for both teams as Nashville spoiled Florida punching its playoff ticket with a 4-1 win on Monday night.

Instead, the Predators (27-21-2, 56 points) kept alive their chances of taking the fourth spot in the Central Division by beating the Panthers (31-14-5, 67 points).

Nashville, Florida coach Joel Quenneville said, looked like the more desperate team and likely will be again Tuesday.

“We’re in good shape,” said Quenneville, whose team is two points behind division leader Carolina. “They’ve playing hard, they’ve got everything on the line and are playing hard. Give them some credit.”

With Dallas beating Carolina in overtime, the Predators held their two-point lead on the Stars.

“It’s going to be a playoff-type game,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “We’re playing a team that is competing for the top spot in the division. In order to beat that team, those teams in that position, (you know) they are fast and extremely competitive. They have no passengers. We’re looking forward to it.”

The Panthers started goalie Chris Driedger (16 saves) on Monday but he left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. Sergei Bobrovsky replaced him.

Quenneville said it was not serious but something that had been “deteriorating” as the game went on. Last week, Driedger took a few days off with a lower-body concern.

Florida planned to start Bobrovsky in Game 2 and Quenneville said it would likely stick to that. Rookie Spencer Knight is expected to be the Florida backup.

This would be Bobrovsky’s first start after Driedger took the past two.

In four starts against the Predators, Bobrovsky is 2-1-1 this season and has a 3.47 goals-against average with a .895 save percentage.

Bobrovsky gave up almost half of his first 14 goals allowed in a 6-5 overtime loss on Feb. 4 when Nashville scored twice in the final minutes to force overtime.

He gave up two goals on 11 shots on Monday night.

This month, Bobrovsky is 3-3 with a 3.00 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

“Every game is so important, every game you are fighting for the points,” Bobrovsky said. “You just focus on the game, you don’t think too much about the outside stuff. You focus on one shot at a time.”

For Nasvhille, do not be surprised to see Juuse Saros get the start in a back-to-back situation.

With the Predators trying to hold off teams for that fourth spot in the Central, Saros may just give them the best chance. This could be the first back-to-back start for Saros this season.

If the Predators do turn to Pekka Rinne for his first start since losing to Tampa Bay on April 10, he does have a history of success against Florida — only not much this season.

Rinne is 6-7-1 with a .913 save percentage and 2.81 goals-against average in his career against Florida. This season, however, he is 1-3-0 with a 3.92 GAA and .890 save percentage.

Florida made a couple of roster moves before the series started, activating center Noel Acciari from the injured list as well as promoting forwards Grigori Denisenko and Aleksi Heponiemi from its AHL team in Syracuse.

–Field Level Media

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