Few opponents have been able to stop the Florida Panthers since the calendar turned to 2009.
The Toronto Maple Leafs certainly haven't.
The Panthers seek their third win in as many tries against the Maple Leafs this season when the teams face off for the second time in eight days on Tuesday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
Florida (25-19-8) lost its final four games before the New Year but has been hard to beat since, going 9-3-3 in January and February to remain in the hunt for their first playoff berth since 1999-2000. The Panthers are one points behind Carolina for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final postseason spot with 58 points - nine more than 11th-place Toronto (20-24-9).
The Panthers have defeated the Maple Leafs twice already this calendar year, both times on the road. They won 4-2 in Toronto on Jan. 6, and 4-3 in overtime last Tuesday. With another win in this matchup, Florida would clinch the season series between these clubs for the first time in 13 years.
That may not be an easy task, however, as the Panthers have dropped five of these clubs' last six meetings in Florida. Last week, they had to rally from a two-goal deficit to force overtime, where former Leaf Brian McCabe scored the game-winner.
"In Toronto last week, through two periods until we got it going in the third, I thought (the Maple Leafs) looked good," coach Peter DeBoer told the Panthers' official Web site. "It's going to be a good test for us."
The Panthers were unable to pass their test at Southeast Division-leading Washington on Saturday night, losing 3-1. They were outshot 39-21, as Alex Ovechkin accounted for 12 of the Capitals' shots on his own.
"We've taken a lot of pride this year in being a team that's tenacious on pucks and hard to play against down low, and we were too easy to play against offensively," DeBoer said.
Toronto has won three of its last five games, including a 5-2 victory at Montreal on Saturday night. After finishing with a season-low 16 shots in Wednesday's 5-0 loss at Buffalo, the Maple Leafs responded with a 41-shot effort.
"We didn't really like our outing last time in Buffalo and playing in Montreal the rivalry speaks for itself, but I think overall as a team we're trying to get some wins here," said Jason Blake, who scored his team-high 18th and 19th goals during a three-goal third period.
Blake, who also leads the Maple Leafs with 40 points, has six goals and five assists in his last seven contests. He has six goals and 10 assists in his last 17 games against the Panthers.
Vesa Toskala has lost twice to Florida this season, but is 4-2-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average in seven career games against the Panthers. He is 3-0-1 despite a 3.45 GAA in his last four starts overall.
Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn - who spent four seasons with the Panthers before they dealt him to the Leafs for McCabe and a draft pick in September - is uncertain for this contest after being driven awkwardly into the boards during Saturday's win.
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