Olli Jokinen skated at the Panthers morning skate (suffering from flu-like symptoms) and is expected to play tonight. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
Olli Jokinen skated Friday morning at BankAtlantic Center and is expected to play tonight when the Panthers play host to the Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo.
Jokinen, the team’s leader in goals (24) and points (49), missed the second and third periods Wednesday against the Sabres due to the flu. If Jokinen plays as expected, it will be his 347th consecutive game.
The Canucks and Panthers, said GM and coach Jacques Martin late Friday morning, are teams in similar positions.
“The key is we’re two teams on the outside (of the playoffs),” Martin said. “We’re looking to gain some ground, and I think what’s important for us is to have desperation and win these hockey games. This is our last game before we go on the road for five, so it’s important to come out and play hard and with a lot of determination.”
The Canucks have won just two of their last 10 games and come into BankAtlantic off a 4-3 loss Thursday in Tampa. Like the Panthers, the Canucks have been hit hard on the blue line. Sami Salo (groin), Lukas Krajicek (shoulder) and Willie Mitchell (back) were all out of the lineup Thursday against the Lightning.
Martin said the key against Luongo tonight is “to get pucks at the net, have some traffic, get rebounds, and put a lot of rubber down.”
The Panthers enter tonight’s game 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and 2-5-3 in their last 10 at home. Four points out of the eighth playoff spot and seven points out of first in the Southeast Division, Martin said the Panthers still control their fate.
“I still think (the playoffs) are within our grasp with the 30 games remaining,” he said. “We have to be better in the last 30 games.”