The push to the playoffs was not a nail-bitter for the Florida Panthers as they were the first NHL team to secure a spot on Sunday — and did so with 13 games left on their schedule.
Tonight, the Panthers (with an X- if you want) return home to face a team that not only handed them their last loss, but one who is fighting for postseason position.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat the Panthers last Sunday, have already started their Sunshine State trip with a win after thrashing the Lightning 6-2 on Monday.
It’s apparent the Leafs know they can make up some serious ground on this trip.
Monday, Auston Matthews recorded a hat trick on Monday and comes to Sunrise with a league-high 54 goals.
Toronto has now won five consecutive games and sit alone in second place in the Atlantic Division, seven points back of the Panthers. Boston and Tampa Bay are nine points behind Florida.
A Florida win tonight would not only set the franchise record for most points in a single season, but would go a long way to securing the team’s third divisional championship — and the home ice advantage which comes with it.
— The Panthers will have Sergei Bobrovsky return to the net tonight after being pulled after two periods in New Jersey on Saturday.
Spencer Knight ended up making six saves in the period-plus he played in that game and then got the win Sunday in Buffalo.
Sunday marked the second consecutive year that the Panthers clinched a playoff spot with Knight in net.
— The Leafs may swap some players out for tonight’s second half of the back-to-back.
On Monday night, coach Sheldon Keefe said William Nylander — who missed the game against the Lightning due to illness — could return against the Panthers.
Defenseman Jake Muzzin is also expected to come back after missing time with a concussion.
Toronto will start Erik Kallgren in net.
— The Panthers come into tonight riding a five-game home winning streak as they have scored a league-leading 159 goals in Sunrise. That is the most home goals scored in a single season in franchise history.
Florida’s 28 home wins are also a franchise record.
— Toronto visits Sunrise for the first time since Feb. 27, 2020 as Florida has won six of its past seven (6-1- 0) against the Leafs at home.
The Panthers have outscored Toronto 29-18 at home since March 14, 2017.
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-165); Puck line (-1.5, +135); Over/Under 7 (-105/-115)
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 45-34-5, 7 ties
- Season series — Toronto leads 1-0: @Toronto 5, Florida 2 (March 27)
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 19 Joe Thornton
42 Gus Forsling // 52 MacKenzie Weegar
8 Ben Chiarot // 7 Radko Gudas
18 Robert Hagg // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Petteri Lindbohm, Lucas Carlsson, Maxim Mamin
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Aaron Ekblad (LTIR), Noel Acciari (UBI), Patric Hornqvist (UBI)
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 // 8 Jake Muzzin
50 Erik Kallgren
36 Jack Campbell