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Florida Panthers On The Road, Again. ‘Crucial’ Trip Starts in Minnesota

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Carter Verhaeghe, center, is congratulated by Brandon Montour, Sam Bennett and Marc Staal after scoring against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 3. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

The Florida Panthers have 27 games remaining in this regular season and the majority of them will be on home ice in Sunrise.

But this week, the team is back on the road for one of its final prolonged trips.

When Florida returns home from playing four games on the road this week, the team will have 16 of its final 23 to be played at FLA Live Arena.

With the team trying to make up some ground in the playoff race — Florida is currently four points back of Washington and three away from Pittsburgh for the final wild card positions — this week will be very important to the Panthers’ postseason hopes.

Knowing this, the team tried to put its disappointing 5-3 loss to the Avalanche behind them as quick as they could and start focusing on the Minnesota Wild.

“We have playing really well lately and do not want to concentrate or pay attention to this loss too much,” said captain Sasha Barkov, who scored in the third period Saturday to pull his team within a goal of the Avs.

“We have to take the good things from this, move on and keep playing the way we have been.”

Said coach Paul Maurice: “You know you’re not going to run the table. Managing this loss emotionally will be important. We’re going to lose some games down the stretch, will lose some games in the playoffs. You have to leave it sometimes and get back on your horse.”

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The Panthers were expected to gather as a team at their hotel in Minneapolis Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl before getting back on the ice Monday morning in nearby St. Paul.

Back-to-back games are not optimal, but the Panthers should be favored in both of their first games here against the Wild and Tuesday in St. Louis.

Minnesota is coming off a nice overtime win against the Devils as it came into that game with losses in six of eight.

The Panthers have not had much success in St. Paul over the years, losing 10 of 11 against the Wild from 2001-18 but have turned that around a bit by winning their past two games at Xcel Arena with Mason Marchment getting a hat trick there last season.

Florida has now won four straight against the Wild and five of the past six.

On Tuesday, the Panthers visit St. Louis where the Blues snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday by beating the Coyotes in overtime. Arizona rallied from a late two-goal deficit to force the extra frame.

After that, the Panthers have a huge game Thursday against the Capitals as they return to Washington for the first time since Game 6. Florida is chasing Washington for one of the final playoff spots in the East.

The trip wraps up Saturday in Nashville.

”We have three teams fighting for their playoff lives as well on this trip,’’ Maurice said. “We all are and everyone is in the same boat. It should be very intense, very physical games.”

It’s a big trip and the success of which could determine whether a long hockey offseason returns to South Florida.

”It is crucial,’’ Sam Bennett said. “This is a must-win road trip for us. We have to be above .500 on this trip and we know how important it is. We’ll be ready.’’

— The Panthers made a roster move on Sunday, recalling forward Grigori Denisenko from the Charlotte Checkers.

Denisenko was playing well for the Panthers in his previous stint with the team and has three assists in 12 games.

On Saturday night, he scored the game-winning goal for the Checkers in a 4-3 overtime win against Toronto. Denisenko has nine goals and 21 points in 37 games for the Checkers this season.

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT MINNESOTA WILD

  • When: Monday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
  • 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 2-0
  • This season (Pantherso 1-0): Panthers 5, Wild 3 (Jan. 21)
  • All-time regular season series: Minnesota leads 18-9-2, 1 tie
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m.

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Zeke 1961

Sergei was in Vezina form tonite. Exceptional saves at critical times. If he is able to be relatively consistent at or near that level when called upon down the stretch, we’ve got a shot. Rest well, “Bob,” you earned it. 1.9 of those 2 points are yours.

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