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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Watch Cup Playoffs, Wait for Toronto or Boston

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Boston’s Trent Frederic fights Ryan Lomberg during the final seconds of Game 2 of last year’s first-round playoff series in Boston. The two could play each other again in the Eastern Conference semifinals — if the Bruins can beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Florida Panthers do not just play hockey, but they are fans of the game as well.

Many players watch games on television on their off nights, but when the Boston Bruins played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 5 of their first-round series on Tuesday, it was appointment television.

Florida had knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 in the opening round the night before and will play the winner of the Bruins and Maple Leafs.

Although Florida’s coaching staff watched Toronto’s 2-1 overtime win with more than a passing glance, Sam Reinhart admitted he paid close attention to it as well.

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“I think you pay attention to every game in the Playoffs,’’ Reinhart said on Wednesday morning.

“It is the best time of year as a player, and as a fan. Certainly that series is something we are focusing on, keying on more than the others right now. You have to take advantage of this opportunity both physically and mentally to rest. But we’re excited about that next challenge, whomever it may be.”

Had Boston won Game 5 and ended that series, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Panthers and Bruins likely would have been this weekend in Sunrise.

Now, Boston holds a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Toronto tonight at 8 p.m. on TBS.

The Panthers wait — and will be watching.

Paul Maurice, an avid consumer of this game, said he was excited about having his next few nights planned not at his arena but from his BarcaLounger.

“More hockey is something you can get behind,’’ Maurice said. “What I want is to see hockey every single night especially because we’re moving on; I want 7 games, right? But this is the fun part of my year. I know exactly what I am doing tonight. It’s going to start at 7:30. More hockey games is great for the game.’’

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With the extended break, Maurice is giving his time some much-deserved time off.

Florida played every other day against the Lightning in a hard-fought series that was much closer than the cold numbers may indicate.

After winning Monday’s game 6-1 — it was 2-1 midway through the third — the Panthers got Tuesday off.

On Wednesday, the IcePlex was full of hockey players although no one went on the ice.

The Panthers will return to a full practice this morning.

“We have a sports science group, a new facility, have a lot of things we can do for recovery for these guys,’’ Maurice said. “We’re exploring all of that.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. BOSTON (A2)/TORONTO (A3)
*Boston Leads Toronto 3-2 in Round 1
BEST-OF-7 SERIES
GAME 1

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