Preview: Panthers at Senators
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
OTTAWA — Its never a good thing when the most commonly used word in a teams dressing room after a game is “regroup.”
Its even worse when that team is in the Florida Panthers situation.
The Panthers playoff hopes took a seriously blow with a 4-3 setback in Toronto on Wednesday, a game that saw them fall into a 3-0 hole before it was 14 minutes old. The loss leaves the Panthers (39-29-7) three points behind the surging New Jersey Devils in the race for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida has one game in hand, but only seven left on the schedule.
“This team has been pretty consistent over the second half of the season,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after the game, “but tonight, for the first 20 minutes, we werent.”
Probably needing to run the table, the Panthers will be right back in action when they visit the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.
“Its tough to swallow, but its back-to-back,” said Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored twice against the Leafs. “We have to regroup tomorrow.”
The sentiments were shared by goalie Roberto Luongo.
“This one hurts,” he said, “but we have to regroup and be prepared to come back tomorrow night.”
While Luongo was solid in Toronto, hell likely give way to James Reimer for the teams second game in 24 hours. Reimer would be a good choice against this foe either way, as he has a career mark of 13-5-2 against the Senators that includes a 7-2 victory in Ottawa last week.
That lopsided loss was for the Senators (26-39-11) was the second of whats turned into a six-game skid. They now sit only three points ahead of the NHLs cellar-dwelling Buffalo Sabres.
The Senators looked like they might finish with a flourish two weeks ago when they beat the Panthers and the Lightning on consecutive nights in Florida, then returned home to deliver an overtime victory over the Dallas Stars.
However, since then they have been outscored 28-11 while dropping a half dozen games.
All thats left to see is what pick the Senators wind up with in the draft lottery April 28, and which of their players will be headed to the world hockey championships in Denmark from May 4-20.
Winger Ryan Dzingel confirmed hes been asked by Team USA, but says hell have to mull over the decision because hes been dealing with some personal family matters over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, the Senators want to grab on to something positive in their final six games.
“Its a lot about trying to come together with the guys who are going to be here (next year),” Dzingel told Postmedia on Wednesday. “Theres not one thing I can pinpoint thats got to change. Its tough to pinpoint whats going on, but we believe in the guys in the locker room.
“This summer, well see what happens. But were just trying to stick together and feed off each other and play together.”
The Senators dipped into the college ranks Wednesday to sign forward Andrew Sturtz, the leading scorer at Penn State, to a two-year entry level deal. Sturtz will attend Ottawas camp in the fall.