SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers find themselves in dire straights heading into the 30th game of the season.
Just six months removed from ending what was a historically dominant 2021-22 season, the Panthers are nearing bottom-10 territory.
And this is coming after Florida sent its 2023 first-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens to acquire Ben Chiarot for the team’s all-in chase for the Stanley Cup.
Those Canadiens, who finished with the league’s worst record last year, now sit ahead of the Panthers in the standings.
Florida has a chance to get itself back into the playoff race with a date with one of the lone teams below them in the standings, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Of course, this is a Blue Jackets team that beat the Panthers in their last meeting on Nov. 20 and one that has been on a two-game winning streak since Tage Thompson scored six goals on them in a 9-4 thrashing by Buffalo on Dec. 7.
They are not to be taken lightly — especially by a Panthers team that is 3-4-0 against the bottom six teams in the league this season.
“We put 96 shots attempts up [the last time we played Columbus] but a whole lot of them were blocked so the traffic to the net was maybe lacking,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said.
”That was a game where I think there were plays to be made that we probably overshot the puck but you gotta be careful with that because when you pull back too hard, you are going to see a heck of a lot of what happened the last two nights where you have the puck a lot but don’t get to the net enough to cause chaos.”
PANTHERS INJURY UPDATES
- Radko Gudas skated for the first time since sustaining a concussion on Dec. 3. He was in a yellow non-contact jersey and was ruled out for Tuesday’s matchup but could return in either of Florida’s next two games.
- Spencer Knight skated for the first time since leaving Dec. 6’s game in Winnipeg with an illness but will not dress for the Panthers on Thursday. Sergei Bobrovsky gets the nod in net.
- Anton Lundell (illness) is out tonight with no timetable given for his return.
PANTHERS ON DECK
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-260); Puck line (-1.5, -115); Over/Under 6.5 (-135/+115)
- Season Series (Columbus leads 1-0): Blue Jackets 5, Panthers 3 (Nov. 20)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 19-16-10
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 16 Sasha Barkov // 6 Colin White
21 Nick Cousins // 12 Eric Staal // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 71 Chris Tierney // 22 Zac Dalpe
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
62 Brandon Montour // 18 Marc Staal
28 Josh Mahura // 3 Matt Kiersted
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
34 Alex Lyon
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Radko Gudas (concussion), Anton Lundell (illness), Spencer Knight (illness)
PROJECTED COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS LINEUP
13 Johnny Gaudreau // 38 Boone Jenner // 14 Gustav Nyquist
59 Yegor Chinakhov // 96 Jack Roslovic // 29 Patrik Laine
91 Kent Johnson // 34 Cole Sillinger // 86 Kirill Marchenko
50 Eric Robinson // 7 Sean Kuraly // 24 Mathieu Olivier
4 Vladislav Gavrikov // 47 Marcus Bjork
75 Tim Berni // 44 Erik Gudbranson
23 Jake Christiansen // 2 Andrew Peeke
90 Elvis Merzlikins
40 Daniil Tarasov