SUNRISE — The last time the Florida Panthers faced the Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champions were struggling having lost seven of eight.
After losing to the Panthers and Blackhawks within a span of three days, the Avalanche got its game back to the tune of a six-game winning streak.
It looked like the Avs were back. Colorado climbed back into a playoff position and, in a Western Conference devoid of a dominant team, could make some noise.
That last part remains true — even as the Avalanche are struggling again.
Colorado visits FLA Live Arena tonight with losses in three of four with its only win during that span against a St. Louis team which is now dismantling.
On Thursday, while the Panthers were getting a rousing win against the San Jose Sharks, Colorado was getting thumped 5-0 in Tampa.
After losing a tough one in Pittsburgh on Tuesday — Colorado led 1-0 before the Penguins got a late goal then won it in overtime — the Avalanche may be a little feisty tonight.
“They have suffered a lot of injuries this season but have stayed around,’’ Florida coach Paul Maurice said.
Florida is hoping captain Sasha Barkov is available to play in what is its final home game before another a trip with stops in Minnesota, St. Louis, Washington and Nashville.
This will be the final road trip Florida will leave the Eastern time zone this season.
On Friday, Barkov was wearing the non-contact yellow after missing Thursday’s game against the Sharks with the hand injury sustained Monday night when blocking a shot.
“There’s a good chance he comes back,’’ Maurice said, “we just have to wait to see how he feels. If he feels like he can go, he will. He is not far off.”
If Barkov does not play, expect Eetu Luostarinen to remain centering Florida’s top line with Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart.
On Thursday, Reinhart had two goals and Luostarinen had a pair of assists.
PANTHERS ON DECK
COLORADO AVALANCHE AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Panthers favored: Money Line (-140); Puck line (-1.5, +180); Over/Under 6.5 (-115-105)
- Last season: Split 1-1
- This season (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Avalanche 4 (Jan. 10)
- All-time regular season series: Colorado leads 26-12-5, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
15 Anton Lundell // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
94 Ryan Lomberg // 6 Colin White // 21 Nick Cousins
71 Chris Tierney // 12 Eric Staal // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
62 Brandon Montour // 18 Marc Staal
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Sasha Barkov (hand)
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald
PROJECTED COLORADO AVALANCHE LINEUP
62 Artturi Lehkonen // 29 Nathan MacKinnon // 13 Valeri Nichushkin
9 Evan Rodrigues // 37 JT Compher // 96 Mikko Rantanen
11 Andrew Cogliano // 18 Alex Newhook // 25 Logan O’Connor
83 Matthew Nieto // 88 Andreas Englund // 81 Denis Malgin
7 Devon Toews // 49 Samuel Girard
4 Bowen Byram // 6 Erik Johnson
56 Kurtis MacDermid // 17 Brad hunt
40 Alexandar Georgiev
39 Pavel Francouz