for this game

Panthers host Maple Leafs seeking win streak

Mar 13, 2012 - 2:55 PM
(Sports Network) - The playoff-hopeful Florida Panthers will try to record consecutive wins for the first time this month when they host the free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers, who haven't qualified for the postseason since the spring of 2000, would be the third seed in the East if the playoffs started today, but Florida still has plenty of work to do to ensure a trip to the NHL's annual tournament.

With 77 points, Florida is just one ahead of Washington for the Southeast Division lead. The Capitals are currently sitting eighth in the conference and are playing a road game tonight against the New York Islanders.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have nearly played themselves out of postseason contention with a horrific stretch over the past month. Toronto has posted a dreadful 2-12-2 record in its last 16 games and enters today eight points out of a playoff spot in the East.

The Panthers are 3-0 against Toronto this season and will aim for a season series sweep tonight. Florida has taken four straight and seven of nine overall in this series and the Maple Leafs have dropped their last four games in Sunrise.

Florida ended a two-game slide with Sunday's 2-0 win over visiting Carolina, improving the Panthers' record this month to 2-3-1. Jose Theodore made 34 saves to register his third shutout of the season and 33rd of his career, as the Panthers kicked off a four-game homestand in positive fashion.

"I think there's been recognition by our guys that what we play for is the playoffs," Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen said after Sunday's win. "We're not there yet, but the effort is there every night and our good players are playing very well right now."

Tomas Fleischmann and Marcel Goc supplied the goals for the Panthers and Fleischmann is now tied with Kris Versteeg for the team lead in goals (22) and points (49). Versteeg has missed the last seven games with a lower-body injury, but is nearing a return and is questionable for tonight.

Panthers forward Jack Skille is expected to miss a second straight game tonight with an undisclosed injury.

Florida is 17-9-8 as the host this year and will close its residency with games against Boston and Buffalo later this week.

The Maple Leafs have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are coming off Sunday's 2-0 setback in Washington. It was the second straight time Toronto was shut out, as it also dropped a 1-0 shootout decision Saturday against visiting Philadelphia.

Toronto, which enters today with a scoreless streak of 157 minutes, 24 seconds, fired 23 shots at Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth on Sunday. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 21 shots in the losing effort for Toronto.

"Of course it's frustrating for all of us, we really wanted to get a couple of wins," Gustavsson said. "I think the guys have been working real hard for it too, [but] for some reason we haven't been able to score goals."

The Leafs are making the second stop on a five-game road trip tonight and are just 14-18-2 as the guest this season.