SUNRISE, Fla. — This is where it has gotten tricky for the Florida Panthers.
For the fifth time this season, they’re riding a three-game winning streak as heading into Saturday night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres at the BankAtlantic Center.
But they’re still looking for that first four-game winning streak. In fact, the Panthers haven’t won four in a row since March of 2008 when they set a franchise record by reeling off seven consecutive victories.
That’s four years without a four-game winning streak.
“Let’s try to have tonight be the night to break that whole image of the Florida Panthers win streak,” said wing Kris Versteeg, who will be back in the lineup after missing the last nine games with a lower-body injury.
The Sabres already stopped one Florida three-game winning streak this season with a 2-1 overtime decision at Buffalo on Dec. 9.
Florida had another three-game streak end with an overtime loss, this time at Tampa Bay on Nov. 25.
But the last two three-game streaks ended with a thud, with a 6-2 home loss to Ottawa on Feb. 15 and with a 7-0 rout at Winnipeg on March 1.
The Panthers got their current streak with home victories over Carolina (2-0), Toronto (5-2) and Boston (6-2).
A victory over Buffalo would conclude a perfect 4-0 homestand. A victory in regulation would give Florida its first four-game streak of regulation victories since all the way back in February of 2001 — two of the victories in the March 2008 came in overtime.
More importantly, though, a victory over Buffalo would get the Panthers closer to a playoff berth, something they haven’t done since 2000.
“We look at this as a key stretch and we’re still right in the middle of it,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “We have to respect our opponent, know that we have a team that’s coming in that’s playing a good stretch of hockey right now and they are surging. It has great implications for us as well as them. It will make for a very exciting game, I think.”