Radek Dvorak gave Florida a 1-0 lead (above) late in the second period but it wasn't enough in a 4-1 loss to the Pens. The Panthers look to rebound as they host the Blues on Saturday night. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
CORAL SPRINGS – These are “hectic times,” Panther coach Peter DeBoer said Friday afternoon.
Every game, he added, is “full-out desperation.” And that will be the case Saturday evening when the Panthers, coming off a 4-1 loss Thursday to the Penguins, play host at BankAtlantic Center to the high-flying St. Louis Blues.
The Blues, who were buried in the Western Conference basement just a few months ago, come into BankAtlantic Center as one of the hottest teams in the league. Before Friday’s game in Tampa, the Blues were 12-4-5 since Jan. 15 and were only four points from a playoff berth. Goalie Chris Mason is 10-4-4 with a 1.66 goals against in his last 18 appearances.
“Saint Louis is a dangerous team,” DeBoer said. “They’re one of the hottest teams in the league over the last 20 games, I think only New Jersey has a better record than them.”
The Panthers, coming off a nine-day, five-game road trip, looked a step slow Thursday night when losing to the Penguins, who seemed energized with the return of Sidney Crosby and the acquisition of Bill Guerin.
The Panthers, in the thick of the playoff race, were simply “outplayed,” against the Penguins, according to goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Panthers will try to get back on their game against the Blues and prevent consecutive losses in regulation for the first time since Dec. 29-31.
“We have to do the same things every night if we want to be successful whether we’re playing St. Louis, Atlanta, the New York Rangers or Detroit Red Wings,” DeBoer said. “We have a formula that works for us and when we get away from it, regardless of the opponent, we get in trouble.”
And every game is bigger than the previous one, regardless of who you’re playing.
“There’s not a team on our schedule we can take lightly or have a letdown against,” he added. “Every game you beat the San Jose Sharks and you lose to a team beneath you, you wind up in the same spot at the end of the day. That’s two points out of two games, and that’s not enough to make it. We have to play above .500 here.”
DeBoer sees a lot of the Panthers in the Blues, and vice versa.
“I think there’s a large group of teams in this league that are in the same boat as we are here,” he said. “We got some young players, some good chemistry, and we all play a good team game. It usually comes down at the end of the day to which teams are more desperate, which team gets the most bounces around the net, and whose goalie is better.”
After playing host to St. Louis, the Panthers will hit the road next week for games in Pittsburgh and Buffalo before returning home to play Tampa Bay.
“It’s exciting,” said DeBoer of the playoff race. “There’s great energy, great drama. Where else would you want to be but playing meaningful games in March and April? That was our goal at the beginning of the year.”
Goalie Tomas Vokoun is scheduled to start Saturday his 500th NHL game… The Blues, 12-15-3 on the road, are 10th in the league on the power play and ninth in penalty killing. Rookie Patrik Berglund has 17 goals and 21 assists while Brad Boyes has 25 goals (51 points)…The Panthers continue to struggle on the power play, scoring on just three of their last 25 chances, and all three goals came Sunday in Washington.