SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are back home for an extended stay as they open up what will be a month-long stay in the Sunshine State with a rare weekday matinee against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at 1 p.m.
While the Panthers visit Tampa Bay next Tuesday, the Panthers will not leave the state until March 20 when they travel to Detroit.
Nine of the team’s next 10 games will come in the sprawling confines of FLA Live Arena.
“Obviously, we would prefer to be at home and our record shows that,” defenseman Brandon Montour said. “But every game is important whether it is here or on the road. Every game right through the end is a must-win and that’s how we have to look at it.”
Although playing so many games at home sounds good — 15 of Florida’s final 23 games are in Sunrise — sometimes staying in one place too long can get stale.
Coach Paul Maurice is aware of such a pitfall and says he has contingency plans to try and keep things fresh as his team tries to play catch up in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“We have talked about what we need to do to keep that energy level up,” he said after Sunday’s practice at the arena. “The driver of that is will be that we’re fighting for our playoff lives like five or six other teams. None of those teams thought they would be there. So, there is a lot of pressure there and a lot of energy. We’re aware of the fact this is unusual.”
The Panthers go into today’s game a heavy betting favorite as the Ducks have lost their past four games and are tied with Columbus for the fewest points in the entire league.
Florida will have Radko Gudas back after he left Saturday’s disjointed loss to the Predators with an apparent wrist/hand injury after getting struck with a shot while killing off a penalty early in the second period.
Gudas practiced on Sunday afternoon with Maurice saying he would be back.
“You never want to see a player go down especially a guy like that who is such a big part of our team,” Montour said. “He is a tough guy so there was no doubt he would be back.”
Sam Bennett will miss his third consecutive game with Maurice indicating this would be strictly precautionary with the Panthers having so much time between games.
Florida does not play again until Buffalo comes to town on Friday with Bennett expected to return then.
Bennett did skate before practice on Sunday with Maurice saying he is leaning toward keeping him out to give him that much more time before games “to where we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Givani Smith also practiced after leaving Thursday’s game in Washington and being a late scratch on Saturday. He is back in the lineup with Chris Tierney being scratched.
PANTHERS ON DECK
ANAHEIM DUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Monday, 1 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; NHL Network
- Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Panthers favored: Money Line (-390); Puck line (-1.5, -155); Over/Under 7 (+105/-125)
- Season Series (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Ducks 3 (Nov. 6)
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 20-14-2, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Buffalo at Florida, Friday, 7 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
15 Anton Lundell // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 14 Grigori Denisenko
21 Nick Cousins // 6 Colin White // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
62 Brandon Montour // 18 Marc Staal
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Sam Bennett (lower body)
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald, Chris Tierney
PROJECTED ANAHEIM DUCKS LINEUP
38 Derek Grant // 11 Trevor Zegras // 16 Ryan Strome
14 Adam Henrique // 37 Mason McTavish // 49 Max Jones
77 Frank Vatrano // 21 Isac Lundestrom // 33 Jakob Silfverberg
39 Sam Carrick // 7 Jayson Megna // 20 Brett Leason
4 Cam Fowler // 29 Dmitry Kulikov
45 Colton White // 3 John Klingberg
13 Simon Benoit // 22 Kevin Shattenkirk
36 John Gibson
1 Lukas Dostal