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The All-Star Break Is Over. Florida Panthers Are Going Back to Work

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The Florida Panthers celebrate with captain Sasha Barkov after he scored the game-tying goal in the final seconds of an eventual 4-3 overtime win against the Boston Bruins last Saturday night in Sunrise. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers should be rested upon their return to practice on Sunday afternoon.

Whether they are ready, well, we will soon find out.

The Panthers have 30 games remaining in this season when they play host to the rival Lightning on Monday night.

They are one of a handful of teams fighting it out for one of the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference and stand three points behind Pittsburgh for the second position and six behind Washington.

Things are tight for the teams fighting it out for a spot in the playoffs.

“I think the league as a whole is super-tight,’’ Pittsburgh veteran center Sidney Crosby said on Friday night.

“Boston, of course, is kind of a different breed right now. But I think everyone else, on a nightly basis, knows they are in for a fight regardless of where they are in the standings.’’

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The Panthers have been off since pulling off their first comeback win of the season on Jan. 28, those two points coming in handy during the down time.

Florida hopes they can carry over the good vibes from the 4-3 overtime win against the Bruins for the sprint to the finish line.

“I don’t think we will have any problem because we do have some time before (Sunday’s) practice,” captain Sasha Barkov said following the All-Star Game on Saturday night.

“We are, I am, excited to see the team again. We finished on a really good note before the break so I am really excited to get back at it. I know it makes things easier that we are not traveling anywhere right now. We are going to sleep in our own beds and get back at it.”

The Panthers will ease into this unofficial second-half of the season what with only 37 percent of their season remaining.

While Florida has to pick things up on the fly with the Lightning here on Monday, it will be off again until Thursday against the Sharks.

Although the Panthers are getting three days off between their first two games coming out of the break, they cannot get used to it.

From Thursday through Feb. 20, the Panthers will play seven games within a span of 11 days with four of those games on the road. Florida’s trip makes stops in Minnesota, St. Louis, Washington and Nashville.

The Panthers will need to be on the top of their game to make up any points.

“I think it is easy for us to get back,” Matthew Tkachuk said after being named MVP of the All-Star Game. “We need to continue pushing forward with what we have been doing the past month. It feels like we have been on the road for the whole season, so finally, we get a little time at home. We need to take advantage of it.”

As far as lineup changes go, the Panthers are expected to have goalies Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight back although Alex Lyon remains on the roster.

Anthony Duclair is also closing in on a return to the lineup in the coming days and weeks.

The marathon of an NHL season is about to turn into a sprint.

“These guys have earned this break,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Why (the Boston win) is so important is they get to keep this through the break. When they come back, they’ll be excited.

“Since the Rangers game at the start of the month, this was our most difficult schedule and we lost our two starting goalies and went 8-4-2. They played their asses off this month. That’s a good month, a healthy record. We can build off that. We have 18 home games left and we can be a good home team. They bring hope back. They can come back rested and have hope.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Monday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Season Series (Tampa Bay leads 2-0): Lightning 3, @Panthers 2 OT (Oct. 22); Lightning 4, Panthers 1 (Dec. 10)
  • Last season: Split four regular season games; Tampa won second-round playoff series 4-0
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 73-50-19, 10 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. San Jose Sharks, 7 p.m.

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surveyjay

By my estimation the cats are going to have to play .725 or better and then they’re going to need help along the way, with four teams in a better position than us right now to grab that last available wild card spot. Not impossible per se, but honestly pretty damn unlikely. My one hope is that they don’t give up, they don’t go through the motions. Let’s hope they played meaningful games all the way till the end. Honestly there’s nothing worse than being “mathematically eliminated” and playing meaningless games, sucks for the players as much as it sucks… Read more »

surveyjay

George, I hate to bring this up at this time, but I am a realist, as I said in the post above you know the math involved with where we sit right now , and with the teams ahead of us, you know our chances. With that being said, what does Zito do at the deadline should it be clear that final playoff spot is out of reach, does he recoup some draft capital by trading a one or two guys, I think smart money says he does. And if you believe that to be the case, as I do,… Read more »

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