SUNRISE — Although some members of the Florida Panthers say they are not scoreboard watching, Eric Staal says he pays a little too much attention to the NHL playoff race.
With the Panthers trying to chase down the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders for one of the final wild card spots, they are also keeping an eye on the likes of Ottawa, Washington, Buffalo and Detroit.
Staal says he pays attention to all of what is going on around the Panthers.
“As long as everyone we are watching is losing, that’s where we are at right now,” Staal said with a laugh. “Standings are something you look at daily. … To be honest, I have been doing it for a while. I look at 9 in the morning, probably more than I should. It is just the reality of it.
“But it is fun. This is the best time of the year. It is going to be a very competitive race to the end and we know where we are at. We have to continue to build and have a huge game on Thursday.”
Monday night was a light one for those like Staal who are keeping an eye on things.
Florida remains five points back of Pittsburgh (78 points) for WC1 with the Penguins having played one fewer game; the Islanders (76) are three points up on the Panthers (73) having played one more game.
Buffalo ended up pulling within two points of the Panthers by rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat the host Maple Leafs 4-3 on Monday night.
”When you get to the end, those teams with nothing to lose play a different style,” Staal said, not talking about the Sabres.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
The Florida Panthers have a couple of days off before they play host to the Canadiens — and Gus Forsling could probably use the time to rest a bit.
Not only does he seem to get hit by point-blank shots or get slammed into the corner in every game, but he sliced a finger “almost to the bone” in a game against Minnesota in January.
Not only did he finish his shift, he came back and scored the game-winning goal upon being stitched up.
”That’s a tough bird,” Paul Maurice said.
- Ryan Lomberg is finding more opportunity and responsibility with the Panthers — and he says he “does not want to slip back.’’ It appears Lomberg has certainly found himself a home in South Florida with the Panthers.
- Zach Andrews is on call for most of the Panthers’ games in Sunrise as the Emergency Backup Goalie but he almost called out on Friday due to his heavy workload as a tax accountant. Then the Blackhawks called — and Andrews was thisclose to becoming the next South Florida product to make his NHL debut.
- The Panthers lead the NHL in penalties taken and it is a problem that does not seem to be going away. On Saturday, at least, they drew a few of their own and cashed in on their chances.
- Video from coach Maurice, Matthew Tkachuk and Marc Staal following Saturday’s OT loss to the Jets is up on the FHN YouTube Channel. You can click the embedded videos below or click RIGHT HERE to see everything all in one place.
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NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
Sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers like their new boss with some making it known they would like Danny Briere to be their permanent general manager.
“He’s put in the work,” Scott Laughton said, “and he’s a perfect guy for the job.”
- Artturi Lehkonen scored a pair of goals in the Colorado Avalanche win over Montreal — but he left the game early with a broken finger.
- Alex Chiasson has been giving the Detroit Red Wings a nice net-front presence.
- Tyler Bertuzzi savored an emotional return to Detroit as a member of the Boston Bruins.
- Are the Vegas Golden Knights a Stanley Cup contender?
- The Washington Capitals had some players missing from practice.
PANTHERS ON DECK
MONTREAL CANADIENS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 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
- Last season: Florida won 3-1
- This season (Florida leads 2-0): Panthers 7, Canadiens 2 (Dec. 29); Panthers 6, Canadiens 2 (Jan. 19)
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 53-38-11, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: New Jersey Devils at Florida, Saturday, 5 p.m.