If the Florida Panthers want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to start by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
And they are going to have to do so without Sam Bennett yet again.
It also sounds like the Panthers will be without Sergei Bobrovsky as well.
Florida has been on a four-game losing streak while Bennett has been dealing with a lower-body injury and it has cost them severely in the Eastern Conference wild card race.
With Panthers coach Paul Maurice saying that he needs to see him on the ice before he gets into a game, that means it is likely they will be without him on Thursday in Montreal as well.
Which means that it is crucial that they learn to win without him.
“The other option is what? If you lived your life without the belief that things are going to happen, you are just never going to get to the National Hockey League,” Maurice said.
“I think you would get weeded out long before it. There is just too much adversity to get to the NHL, to stay in the NHL and be a good player. So you wake up this morning and you got singular focus. You are not worried about world events, you are coming to a hockey game in Toronto and we have to win this game.”
They finished a seven-game point streak neck and neck with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff spot in the East and now sit three points behind them with eight games to go.
The Panthers can get all the help they need — they got it Tuesday night when Pittsburgh blew a third-period lead to Detroit — but getting out of that hole starts with winning their own games.
And this will be a tough one against a deep Maple Leafs squad.
Toronto has four players producing at over a point per game and is 11-6-1 since they retooled the bottom half of their lineup ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
Florida saw firsthand how dangerous the Maple Leafs are when they stormed them 6-2 in their own building last week.
Now, the Panthers are looking for revenge in Toronto as they look to rebuild the ground they lost in the playoff race.
“They’re a complete team. They have four lines that go. They play the right way, and they get to the front of the net,” Carter Verhaeghe said.
“They beat us and they deserved to win. We want to answer tonight.”
After the morning skate, Maurice would not say who would start in goal saying it is a game-time decision.
Since he almost always announces the starter, it appears Bobrovsky is out.
Florida recalling Mack Guzda from AHL Charlotte all but confirms that.
Alex Lyon gave up five goals on 23 shots in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in his previous game and is expected to start tonight.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- 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 — Maple Leafs favored: Money Line (-145); Puck line (-1.5, +150); Over/Under 7 (-105/-115)
- Season Series (Toronto leads 2-0): Maple Leafs 5, Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 47-35-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 15 Anton Lundell // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 13 Sam Reinhart
21 Nick Cousins // 6 Colin White // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
34 Alex Lyon
29 Mack Guzda
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Sam Bennett (LBI)
PROJECTED TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
19 Calle Jarnkrok // 34 Auston Matthews // 16 Mitch Marner
15 Alexander Kerfoot // 91 John Tavares // 88 William Nylander
58 Michael Bunting // 28 Sam Lafferty // 37 Timothy Liljegren
12 Zach Aston-Reese // 64 David Kampf // 24 Wayne Simmonds
22 Jake McCabe // 78 T.J. Brodie
55 Mark Giordano // 3 Justin Holl
44 Morgan Rielly // 2 Luke Schenn
35 Ilya Samsonov
30 Matt Murray