The credo for Florida Panthers is maintaining their focus entering their game Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers return home following a 1-3-0 Western trip that ended Sunday with a 6-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Florida has lost three straight and is 6-14-1 in its past 21 games, while allowing 3.81 goals per game during that stretch. In light of the struggles, interim coach Peter Horachek is counting on his team to end the season on a high note.
"I think it's important for a lot of the young players, and players going forward, that they have a strong finish, that they want to have a strong finish, that there's a focus as a team that we play well going down the stretch," Horachek said following the Panthers' morning skate. "I think it's important for us to play the way we need to play. It's important that we don't lose focus, that we don't lose our way.
"I think leadership on this team is very important moving forward."
Helping the cause is the Panthers gradually getting healthy. Forward Jesse Winchester returns after missing eight games with a lower-body injury and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will play despite getting "banged up," according to Horachek, during the game Sunday. Defenseman and captain Ed Jovanovski also will return after sitting out Sunday, the second of a back-to-back set.
The Senators did not skate Tuesday. Most players did off-ice work at the hotel while goalie Craig Anderson was on the ice with forward Matt Kassian. Coach Paul MacLean won't update his lineup until closer to game-time, but indications had goalie Robin Lehner starting for the Senators and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch in for Chris Phillips.
Their playoff hopes fading, the Senators play the second of a back-to-back off a 4-3 shootout win against the Tampa Bay Lightning that ended a six-game losing streak.
Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers and Senators:
Injured: Bobby Ryan (lower body)