PITTSBURGH -- No time to rest now.
With the first-place Florida Panthers coming off a 5-0 loss in Philadelphia barely 12 hours before, coach Kevin Dineen held a morning skate in advance of Friday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It wasn't a full-squad workout, but 11 players showed up -- a significant number at a time of the season when every player covets his time away from the rink.
With the Panthers leading Washington and Winnipeg by only two points each in the Southeast Division standings, coach Kevin Dineen said every game has become a must game, every point possible must be won, every moment of preparation is important.
"One of our players (John Madden) described it earlier this week, you've got to have amnesia when things don't work out and believe in the positives, and a quick turnaround is the best way to get back at it," Dineen said.
The Panthers have lost three of four and are 7-6-1 over their last 14 with four shutout defeats, but Dineen said it doesn’t matter as much what happened then as what happens now.
Florida plays every other day for the next week, taking on Carolina on Sunday, Toronto on Tuesday, and Boston and Buffalo following that during what could be a make-or-break four-game homestand.
"I look at it as an exciting time of the year. We've had our opportunity to separate ourselves from the muck and now we're right in the thick of it," Dineen said. "This is what you play for. You train all summer, you get personal trainers, you get psychologists, guys flying all over working to prepare for the season. And now is the time you look forward to, get excited about. This is what you work for."
He added, "You like to say you're working for April and May and early June, but it's right now. It's not the end game, it's the road traveled. And we're right in the thick of it."
The Panthers are proving to be resilient, winning 14 times following a loss, but Dineen wishes they didn't have to bounce back so much.
"You can call that a good thing, or call it a little inconsistent as well," Dineen said. "We need some consistency within our game as well as game to game. That's part of our growth as a group, and something we'll address and learn from. It's getting down to the time of the season where that's really important to come out. We had a decent start last night, played some solid hockey, created some chances early, but when we had adversity, we didn’t respond."
The Panthers have won only two of their last 11 against the Penguins, who won two of the first three this season. Florida's likely lineup:
Sean Bergenheim - Stephen Weiss - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Wojtek Wolski
Shawn Matthias - Mike Santorelli - Tomas Kopecky
Krystofer Barch - Jerred Smithson - Jack Skille
Eric Gudbranson - Ed Jovanovski
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Keaton Ellerby - Mike Weaver
Dineen didn't disclose his goalie, but Jose Theodore (18-13-6) has allowed three goals or more in three of his last four starts. Scott Clemmensen (11-6-5) is 4-6-2 in his career against Pittsburgh.