If the Florida Panthers are going to make the long climb back into a playoff spot, they need to get in gear right now.
The Panthers currently sit eight points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as they begin a four-game road trip in Detroit tonight.
And that is just the beginning of a stretch of nine road games in their next 11.
By the end of that stretch, Florida will have played 50 games and we should know with a pretty good certainty whether or not this team can make the playoffs.
“I have a decent vocabulary but I don’t think I have a good enough word for the magnitude of this game,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“We are in that mode where we have to mentally approach all of these as playoff games. We are not gonna go 16-0 in the playoffs and we are not going to win every game on this road trip. This is as tough as a month as I’ve seen in the NHL but how you survive losing those games is critical.”
So far this season, the Panthers have not fared well on the road, going 7-12-1 away from FLA Live Arena and boasting the fourth-most road losses in the league.
The numbers tell a tale of two different Florida teams at home and on the road, for the most part.
While the Panthers are their usual high-scoring selves at home with the fifth-most goals in the league (71), the Panthers have been outscored 75-57 on the road this season.
Righting the ship in that department does not get any easier for them now.
Florida will face the two best teams in the Western Conference (Dallas and Vegas) and the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche to close out this four-game road trip.
It all starts with a competitive division rival in the Detroit Red Wings.
The Panthers appear to only be making one change in their lineup from Tuesday’s win against Arizona as Sergei Bobrovsky returns to net.
Maurice has said over the past few days that he needs both of his goalies going strong and does not want either of them sitting for too long.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT DETROIT RED WINGS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
- Streaming/TV: 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
- Draft Kings odds — Panthers favored: MoneyLine (-150); Puck line (-1.5, +170); Over/Under 6.5 (-120/+100)
- Last season: Florida won 4-0
- This season (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Detroit 1 (Dec. 8)
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 34-19-6, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Sunday at Dallas, 3:30 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 9 Sam Bennett // 13 Sam Reinhart
6 Colin White // 15 Anton Lundell // 21 Nick Cousins
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion)
Scratched: Matt Kiersted, Chris Tierney
PROJECTED DETROIT RED WINGS LINEUP
27 Michael Rasmussen // 71 Dylan Larkin // 57 David Perron
52 Jonatan Berggren // 18 Andrew Copp // 23 Lucas Raymond
14 Robby Fabbri // 24 Pius Suter // 70 Oskar Sundqvist
81 Dominik Kubalik // 90 Joe Veleno // 85 Elmer Soderblom
96 Jake Walman // 53 Moritz Seider
8 Ben Chiarot // 17 Filip Hronek
2 Olli Maatta // 82 Jordan Oesterle
35 Ville Husso
45 Magnus Hellberg