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For five straight seasons, Olli Jokinen led the Florida Panthers in points without taking them to the playoffs. Playing without their all-time points leader, this season's Panthers have looked even farther from postseason caliber.
In his first game against his former club since an offseason trade to the Phoenix Coyotes, Jokinen looks to extend the rebuilding Panthers' winless streak to six games as they continue a five-game road trip Saturday night at Jobing.com arena.
The Panthers dealt Jokinen - Florida's top scorer in every season since 2002-03 - to the Coyotes in June in exchange for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton as well as a second-round draft pick.
The trade was an anticlimactic ending to Jokinen's seven-year tenure with Florida, an era that saw the Finnish forward take the franchise points lead with 419 but didn't feature a single postseason appearance.
Florida (4-7-1) looks like it could struggle to end that drought this season. Though they won four of their first seven games, the respectable start has lost its luster during the team's five-game winless streak. The Panthers, 0-4-1 in that stretch, are now tied with the New York Islanders for fewest points in the NHL with nine.
They didn't make up any ground Thursday night, when they fell behind by two goals in the first period and got outshot 32-15 overall in a 3-2 defeat at Los Angeles.
"We're just not good enough - bottom line," said first-year coach Peter DeBoer, who admitted he'll consider benching players if their performance doesn't pick up. "We didn't have a good first period. It's inexcusable, and you'll have to ask the leadership group in the room why.
"We're at the point in the season now where you have to earn your ice time or you're not going to play."
Panthers players are just as eager to turn their fortunes around.
"To come out flat like that is not acceptable," said center Stephen Weiss, who returned to the lineup Thursday after missing four games because of a groin injury. "We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why that was. We just didn't have any legs, or anything, really. It's not the coaching staff's job to motivate players. It's our job to make sure we are ready to play."
Though it's likely little consolation for the Panthers, Jokinen hasn't yet made the impact with the Coyotes (5-6-0) that coach Wayne Gretzky had hoped.
Gretzky said after the trade that Jokinen gave the Coyotes "a big horse in the middle, a guy that can play a lot of minutes, can score big goals for us, and can give us a physical presence."
Jokinen has delivered from a statistical standpoint, totaling four goals and seven assists in his first 11 games with the team, but Phoenix has dropped six of nine after opening the season with consecutive victories.
Jokinen and Coyotes leading scorer Shane Doan were held scoreless and managed only three shots between them in a 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Thursday night.
"You're not going to be successful against a good team like theirs if your top-echelon guys aren't there, and we just didn't get enough out of some of our better players," Gretzky said. "In a game that's a 1-0 game ... you need a couple of big boys up front to score, and we didn't get that tonight."
This is the first meeting between these teams since Feb. 10, 2007, when Jokinen had a goal and an assist to lead Florida to a 5-2 home victory over Phoenix.