The Panthers have been here before.
Two weeks ago, on the very morning the Lightning would come back from two goals down to beat the Panthers in a shootout, coach Peter DeBoer warned how dangerous teams were this time of year who had nothing to lose.
He reiterated those same concerns Tuesday morning at BankAtlantic Center less than eight hours before the Panthers will take to the ice against the Ottawa Senators.
It’s another big game for the Panthers, who are a point behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with six games remaining. Tonight will kick off a three-game homestand for the Panthers with games Friday against Atlanta and Sunday against the Penguins.
While the Senators playoff hopes are on life support – a regulation loss tonight coupled with a Montreal victory over the Blackhawks would spell their doom – they’ve been on a tear (13-3) and have been one of the league’s hottest teams.
“Dangerous team,” said DeBoer after the team’s morning skate. “They’re 7-3 in their last 10 and they’re playing with a lot of confidence; a little less pressure there, obviously, than there was before. Those are tough teams to play against. We have to treat this game exactly like we did when we went into Philadelphia (last week).”
Craig Anderson will start his third game in goal for the Panthers. Anderson stopped 72 of 77 shots in victories last week against the Flyers and Stars while posting a .935 save percentage and 2.50 goals against. Anderson is 14-6-5 on the season with a .924 save percentage and 2.73 goals against.
Anderson, like Tomas Vokoun, has helped the Panthers stay alive this season at various times, and Anderson doesn’t mind the work. He’s 6-0-2 this season when facing 40 or more shots, 9-0-3 as a Panther, and 10-1-4 in his career.
DeBoer said while he wasn’t looking forward to making a goalie change last week, the Panthers have succeeded this season as a collective unit working together.
“Our team has been all year about 20 guys, it hasn’t been about one person or one line,” he said. “Andy came in and really gave us a chance to stay alive early in the year. In November, when we were struggling and sitting in 29th, 30th place, he ran off (eight) games in a row. He jumped back in when (Tomas) Vokoun was on the injured list with the flu (in February) for 4 games. (Anderson) won us a huge game in New York at Madison Square Garden (Feb. 26). He’s done this all year.”
“(Changing goalies) wasn’t a situation we were looking forward to crossing, but those are tough decisions you have to make. Anything that gives your team a chance down the stretch.”SCOREBOARD WATCHING
There’s only one that matters: Montreal plays host to the Chicago Blackhawks. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Canadiens end a five-game homestand tonight, going 2-1-1 thus far after losing Saturday to Buffalo in a shootout. The Canadiens are 23-8-7 at home this season. After tonight, the Canadiens play four of their next five on the road.LINES FOR TONIGHTStephen Weiss
, David Booth and Michael Frolik.
Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman, Richard Zednik
Gregory Campbell, Radek Dvorak and Ville Peltonen
Kamil Kreps, Brett McLean and Rostislav Olesz.NOTES
Richard Zednik, who missed Saturday’s game against the Stars, has practiced the past two days and will be in the lineup tonight…The Senators are 12th in the league on the power play, 16th on the penalty kill. The Panthers are 10th in the penalty kill and 25th on the power play…Steve Eminger, Anthony Stewart and Nick Tarnasky will be the healthy scratches this evening for the Panthers…The Panthers are 21-12-6 since Jan. 1…Zednik needs one more goal for 200 in his NHL career…David Booth needs one assist for 50 in his NHL career…The Senators are 25-8-0-2 against the Panthers since 1999-2000…The Sens top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza has five goals and five assists in the last five games…