At this time next week, the Florida Panthers will be enjoying their All-Star break.
They have a lot to do between now and then.
The Panthers kick off perhaps their most important week of the season tonight in New York when they take on the Rangers.
Florida will play four games — all against teams holding a playoff spot — within the next six days.
Tonight they play the Rangers with Pittsburgh on Tuesday; the Panthers will be back home for a back-to-back against the Kings and Bruins starting Friday night.
There are eight available points here and the Panthers could use a grand majority of them.
The big game, obviously, comes Tuesday as Florida and the Penguins seem to be the top contenders for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
On Sunday, the Penguins lost 2-1 in overtime to the Devils, expanding their lead on the Panthers to three points. Pittsburgh has two games in hand on Florida.
Florida has won its past two games and have a five-game (4-0-1) point streak going. With wins in seven of 10 (7-2-1), the Panthers are playing with more confidence than they have in months.
“When you’re going, you feel like you can win every night, have a chance to win every night,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “When you’re struggling, you just don’t see it. These next two will be the most difficult of this entire stretch. But all you have to go do is go out and compete, not worry about tomorrow.”
The Panthers are expected to have Alex Lyon back in net tonight at MSG after Spencer Knight played back-to-back games with the AHL Charlotte Checkers.
Knight and the Checkers lost 5-2 to the Cleveland Monsters on Sunday. He should start Tuesday night.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
Grigori Denisenko has not been able to play a lot of hockey the previous two seasons due to a COVID shutdown and an injury midway through last season.
But he is up with the Panthers now and really seems to be hitting his stride. Denisenko may only have three points in 10 games, but he is getting into plays every night.
— With wins in seven of their past 10, it looks like the Panthers have got things headed in the right direction.
— Mack Guzda was the backup to Lyon on Saturday night in what was his unofficial first NHL game. Because he did not hit the ice, it does not count as an NHL debut.
Regardless, the 22-year-old has a great story as he was an undrafted and unsigned goalie playing in junior hockey at this time last year. On Saturday, he was in the NHL. Not bad.
— The NHL is bringing its popular All-Star FanFest to Fort Lauderdale beach and it looks like it is going to be a really cool event. It is also going to be free.
— Plenty of postgame reaction from Sunrise last night on the FHN YouTube Channel including comments from Maurice, Lyon, Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart.
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NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
The Pittsburgh Penguins were thisclose to getting an overtime win against the Devils on Sunday, but their game-winning goal was waved off — and they ended up losing 2-1.
— The Los Angeles Kings beat the Blackhawks on Sunday to get things back heading in the right direction.
— T.J. Oshie has strong words for his Washington Capitals teammates after a loss in Vegas.
— Kevin Hayes got another couple of goals but it was not enough as the Philadelphia Flyers lost to Winnipeg.
— The Boston Bruins were strong all game long in a 4-0 win over the Sharks.
— What the Detroit Red Wings can learn from other major successful rebuilds.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK RANGERS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
- 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: Rangers won 2-1
- This season (Rangers lead 1-0): Rangers 5, Panthers 3 (Jan. 1)
- All-time regular season series: Rangers lead 58-32-8, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m.