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Florida Panthers GameDay

GameDay 78: Lineups, Betting Odds for Maple Leafs at Panthers

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The Florida Panthers clinched the Atlantic Division and home ice through the Eastern Conference side of the playoffs Thursday by virtue of their win over Detroit combined with Toronto’s blowout loss in Tampa. — Graphic courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — On Thursday night, the Florida Panthers were able to clinch both the Atlantic Division and home ice throughout the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Florida did its part on Thursday by beating Detroit; the Panthers then needed some help from rival Tampa Bay.

The Lightning came through in a big way, humbling the Toronto Maple Leafs with an 8-1 win. That gave the Panthers the division and what will end up being the best record in the Eastern Conference.

But on Saturday night, the bruised Leafs come to Sunrise to play a Florida team that still has something to play for.

Florida can still win the Presidents’ Trophy which goes to the NHL team with the most points at the end of a season.

With Colorado losing in Edmonton on Friday night, the Panthers hold a two-point lead on the Avs with a game in hand.

The Florida Panthers are also trying to set a franchise record with their 13th consecutive win.

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Florida has not lost since it went down 5-2 in Toronto back on March 27 and are 8-0 since clinching a playoff spot April 8 in Buffalo.

Coach Andrew Brunette says his team’s focus despite accomplishing what would be considered preseason goals is just one of the traits which makes them a special group.

“You don’t have too many times, in your career or in your life, where you can be on a team like this,’’ Brunette said. “We’re a long, long way from getting to where we want to be, but I think we’ve enjoyed each other. They love playing with each other, they love to compete together and those are all fun signs.

“For me, just to be part of that is pretty special. There’s so much work left to do, but just the day-to-day grind … I think we have to be appreciative and feel that we’re lucky to be part of this. Enjoy the moment, but understand there’s a lot more moments that we need to attain to get the big one.”

Added MacKenzie Weegar: “I think we’ve been pretty hot all year. We just try to build our game every night. That’s been the message down the stretch here: Just keep building our game, the right habits, and that’ll lead to success in the playoffs at the right time. We like to win. It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t think we’d ever take the foot off the gas, even if we had the division locked up either way. We are competitors.”

Toronto will not finish first in the division but still needs to hold off Tampa Bay and Boston to ensure home ice in the opening round.

The Leafs have not escaped the first round of the playoffs since 2004 and certainly would like to open at home when the postseason kicks off in just over a week.

After Thursday, it appears the Leafs will be playing Tampa Bay in the opening round.

Florida, it should be noted, have not won a playoff series since 1996.

AUSTON RETURNS

The Leafs were playing without star center Auston Matthews who has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury.

Per a report in the Toronto Sun, Matthews took part in Thursday’s morning skate but did not play.

“He’s really close,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said per the Sun. “He’s on the ice, he is getting his touches, but we’re in a similar place to where we were a couple of days ago, in terms of it just not making sense to put him in the lineup at this point.”

He will play tonight against the Panthers

Defenseman Jake Muzzin has also missed the past three games but has been skating. He will not play tonight. 

Jack Campbell will be in net for Toronto; Florida turns to the net to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Spencer Knight is expected to start Sunday against Tampa Bay in the Panthers’ final regular season home game.

MORE MILESTONES

Florida not only comes into Saturday’s game riding a 12-game winning streak, but it has won 10 straight at home.

It is the second 10-game home winning streak this season and is one win from tying the franchise record set when the Panthers started the year 11-0 at home.

In NHL history, only two other teams have recorded multiple 10-game home winning streaks in a single season: The 1995-96 Red Wings and 1955-56 Canadiens.

— The Panthers lead the NHL with 33 home wins this season which is tied for third-most in a season in NHL history.

Those Red Wings and the 1975-76 Flyers won 36 each. The best the Panthers can do is 35.

Also, the Detroit and Philadelphia home records came in an era when there was no shootout to determine a winner; the Flyers also played when games ended after 60 minutes and did not have an overtime. So, those two teams won a lot of home games when many games simply ended in a tie.

— Florida’s league-leading 56 wins is for ninth-most in NHL history. The league record for wins in a season is 62 held by (yep) that Detroit squad and the Tampa Bay team which was swept out of the first round by Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets in 2019.

— The Panthers also lead the league with 322 goals this season; that is the most by any NHL team since 1995-96, when Pittsburgh (362), Colorado (326) and Detroit (325) all had more.

— Florida’s 118 points are tied for the sixth-most of any team in one season.

PANTHERS ON DECK

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP

11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair

17 Mason Marchment // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux

98 Maxim Mamin // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart

94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 55 Noel Acciari

8 Ben Chiarot // 52 MacKenzie Weegar

42 Gus Forsling  // 62 Brandon Montour

18 Robert Hagg // 7 Radko Gudas

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

30 Spencer Knight

Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Joe Thornton, Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe

Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Aaron Ekblad (LTIR)

PROJECTED TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP

58 Michael Bunting // 34 Auston Matthews // 16 Mitch Marner

15 Alexander Kerfoot // 91 John Tavares // 88 William Nylander

65 Ilya Mikheyev // 64 David Kampf // 47 Pierre Engvall

43 Kyle Clifford // 11 Colin Blackwell // 24 Wayne Simmonds

44 Morgan Rielly // 46 Ilya Lyubushkin

78 T.J. Brodie // 3 Justin Holl

55 Mark Giordano // 37 Tim Liljegren

36 Jack Campbell

50 Erik Kallgren

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