SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have regained first place in the Southeast Division thanks to their current three-game winning streak. But they'll be going for a rare feat Wednesday night when they play host to the Ottawa Senators.
A victory would give Florida its first four-game winning streak since March of 2008, when the Panthers won seven in a row in a futile late attempt at a playoff run.
To put in perspective just how long it’s been, the only current Panthers player who was on that team was center Stephen Weiss.
"It would be nice," Weiss said. "Those are where you really make ground up or separate yourself when you can string together five-plus games in a row. That would be huge. But as soon as you start thinking about it, your feet stop moving and your head takes over. We've just got to play as if we've lost three in a row and have that killer instinct and make sure we're ready to go for our first shift and take it from there."
More important than the streak, a victory Wednesday night would increase the Panthers' lead over Washington in the Southeast Division to six points, with a matchup between the teams looming Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
"We've got to keep the ball rolling," said center Shawn Matthias, who played four games for the Panthers in 2007-08 but was back in the AHL during the long winning streak. "That was the last time they made a real good push at the end. We're getting near the end here and we've got to keep pushing strong and we need to put a little streak together here to secure ourselves some space between us and the rest of the teams in our division."
In putting together their 27-17-11 record, the team's best 55-game mark since 2000, the Panthers have had three three-game winning streaks, including this one.
The first two ended with overtime losses, against Tampa Bay at home in November and at Buffalo in December.
While Coach Kevin Dineen isn't focusing on the winning streak, he is happy with the way his team has been playing of late.
"We get players that are feeling good about themselves, it makes our job easier," Dineen said. "Our video meeting (Tuesday) morning was really positive and you're able to build up on a lot of things. You're not searching for things, either, it's there and it shows up on the scoreboard and it shows up in their play. There's some positives to keep working on right now."
Dineen said after Wednesday's morning skate he hadn't decided whether to go with Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen in net to try to extend the streak.
Theodore returned Sunday after missing eight games with a knee injury and allowed only one goal on 27 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Islanders. Clemmensen, meanwhile, also gave up only one goal in the first two victories of the current winning streak -- against Los Angeles and at New Jersey.
Here is the Panthers' projected lineup for Wednesday night:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli
Jack Skille - John Madden - Matt Bradley
Brian Campbell - Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby - Erik Gudbranson
Colby Robak - Tyson Strachan