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Looking For More Success Against Toronto

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

Mike Santorelli celebrates one of his two goals against Toronto on February 28th. The Panthers won 5-3 at Air Canada Centre.

The Panthers and Maple Leafs will battle for a huge two points Tuesday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

While Florida is looking to stay ahead of the rest of the Southeast (Washington also plays on Long Island), Toronto is trying to stay in the playoff hunt.

Florida has had success this season against Toronto, taking the first three games of the series and have scored five goals in each of those games. But for Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen, the past is the past.

"That's one stat I don't buy too much into," said Dineen following the Cats morning skate when asked about relying on success this season against the Leafs for tonight's game. "I think you feel where your team is, the ebbs and flow of a season and where we're at right now, I think there's a large sense of desperation in our game as well as the Leafs. So it has a mixture of a pretty good hockey game."

While the Panthers put up 15 goals in the season series, Dineen is more worried about the Panthers offense as of late.

"You look at your previous games against a team and you also look at your most recent production and our production recently, probably is where the focus is because we haven't been that strong," said Dineen. "Obviously we have had a couple of strong games in Toronto. It might be the amount of representation our team has from Ontario that guys are certainly up for it. But it's been a good matchup thus far."

Toronto, which is 2-12-2 in their last 16 games, made a coaching change on March 2nd bringing in former Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle. Dineen has a past with Carlyle when the two worked in the Ducks organization. Knowing Carlyle and other personnel, the Cat's bench boss is excited for the chance to go head-to-head with the Leafs.

"We know there's been a change there since we last seen them," said Dineen. "I put in three years with Randy (Carlyle) and Dave Farrish in Anaheim. I know their thoughts on the game and it will be a certainly be a stiff team to play against defensively.

"I'm closely associated with that personnel. Brian Burke was the first guy to hire me and I know Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle and my brother coaches in that organization but I also had a lot of conversations with Burkie over the year and he is good friends with a lot of GMs in the league and a lot of people.

"What's the balance there, you wish other people well but when you play against them, you want to put the hammer down and that's our gameplan."

While the Panthers offense has struggled of late (three goals in three games), one forward that has produced is Tomas Fleischmann.

The forward is tied for the team lead in points with 49 and has scored the team's first goal of the game in the last two contests.

"As a coach you're kind of looking for players that have a little jump to their game. For me, I've been trying to find him an extra shift here and there just because it seems that every time he's been on the ice, he's creating some quality offensive chances and you like to see that," said Dineen of Fleischmann's play. "The previous four, five games they weren't going in for him but he still had that jump and now he's starting to find the net so hopefully he'll feed off of that."

Fleischmann's 22 goals this season, also tied for the team lead with Kris Versteeg, are already one short of tying his career high. He recorded 23 goals with Washington during the 2009-10 season.

Forward Kris Versteeg continues to skate but Dineen said that it will still take some time.

"He's getting there," said Dineen. "He's not in the lineup tonight and I would say he is doubtful for the game Thursday but he's making good strides."

Versteeg as well as injured defenseman Dmitry Kulikov are both possible for the end of the Panthers four-game homestand.

The news from the morning skate wasn't as promising for forward Jack Skille as Dineen stated that he will be out long term.
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