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Panthers Turn to Reimer as Playoff Push Heats Up in Ottawa

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

You're up, James Reimer.

After Roberto Luongo blanked the Canadiens in a 2-0 victory in Montreal on Monday night, the Florida Panthers will now turn their backup goaltender as they look to move within one point of a playoff spot against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.

"Even if he has an off game, we know what he's going to come back with," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Luongo. "He's that kind of a pro. He means everything to this team. There was no doubt in our mind because we know what kind of person he is on and off the ice. Lou's the ultimate pro… It's good to see and now he gets some rest tomorrow when Reims goes in."

Reimer, who started 18 of 19 games to keep Florida's season afloat when Luongo missed more than two months with a groin injury, posted a 46-save shutout in his last start, leading the Cats to a crucial 3-0 win over Boston on March 15. Reimer has made just three starts since Luongo returned to the lineup on Feb. 17, but will be counted on heavily down the home stretch.

After shutting out the Bruins, Boughner said he was impressed by Reimer's preparation.

"Reims going in and playing like that was great for our team," Boughner said of Reimer, who has a .910 save percentage and three shutouts this season. "For him being off as long as he has, just shows you what kind of true pro he is to be prepared and ready."

The Panthers (36-27-7) have three more sets of back-to-backs remaining after Tuesday night's matchup in Ottawa and will not have more than two days off between any of their 12 remaining games. That being said, Reimer will draw in at least four more times, starting with another must-win game against the resurgent Senators.

Winners of three of their last four games, Ottawa (26-34-11) is no longer the pushover it appeared to be just a few weeks ago. The Senators have averaged four goals over a four-game stretch that began with a 5-3 win against the Panthers at BB&T Center on March 12 - a victory that ended Florida's franchise-record eight-game winning streak on home ice.

Still, Ottawa's three-game winning streak was stopped in a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Saturday.

"We gave whatever we had," Senators coach Guy Boucher told reporters after the loss. "It was a back-to-back. They were waiting for us. This was our fourth back-to-back in 15 days and all four back-to-backs were against teams that were not on the back-to-back. So at some point you have to be fair to the players. It's ridiculous. They gave everything they had until the very end. They pushed with whatever was left."

For the Panthers, the biggest difference maker in Ottawa could be the penalty kill.

With a perfect 5-for-5 performance against the Canadiens, the Panthers extended their streak to nine straight games without surrendering a power-play goal. Since Nov. 22, Florida's penalty kill ranks second in the NHL with an 85.4 percent success rate.

Florida is also tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals (10).

"We've been pretty good in that department all year, being a shorthanded team," Boughner said. "Sometimes as a coach you sit back there, and you don't want to see guys pressing too hard for offense when we're short, but we've done a real good job."

If they can escape Ottawa with two points in hand, the Panthers would move within one point of New Jersey for the second wild card spot into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Devils, who visit San Jose on Tuesday night, play four of their next five games against teams currently bound for the postseason. Florida will end the night with two games still in hand against New Jersey.

"We're a very excited team," said Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, whose 15 goals are tied for second in the league among defensemen. "There's no doubt about it. Everybody in this room knows what we have and knows what's in front of us and the work and the challenge that we have. We're ready to step up to it."

NOTES

-- Aleksander Barkov enters tonight's game with 17 points (6-11-17) over his last 13 games. With his 26th goal and team-leading 71st point of the season on Monday in Montreal, the 22-year-old center tied Olli Jokinen (71, 2007-08) and Ray Whitney (71, 1999-00) for the fifth-most points in a single season in franchise history.

-- The NHL's active ironman, Keith Yandle ranks seventh all-time in consecutive games played (703). The 31-year old enters tonight's contest ranking first among Florida's defensemen in points (47), assists (41) and power-play points (17), while also leading the club in total ice time (1722:08). He is three points away from his third 50-point season and his first since 2013-14.

-- Evgenii Dadonov has posted 17 points (7-10-17) and a team-leading seven goals over his last 13 games. In that span, the 29-year-old winger registered seven multi-point games. In the midst of his first season with the Panthers, Dadonov leads the team in multi-goal games (5) and game-winning goals (5), while also ranking second in multi-point games (19).

-- Vincent Trocheck has scored four goals over his last seven games to increase his team-lead to 28. The 24-year-old center leads Florida with a career-high 13 power-play goals and 24 power-play points. His 13 power-play goals are the most by a Panther in a single season since Olli Jokinen (18) in 2007-08.

PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Forwards

Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin

Maxim Mamin - Jared McCann - Frank Vatrano

Jamie McGinn - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour

Defense

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk

MacKenzie Weegar - Alexander Petrovic

Goalies

James Reimer

Roberto Luongo

Scratches: Connor Brickley, Micheal Haley, Radim Vrbata, Ian McCoshen

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

-- March 10: F Frank Vatrano activated from IR

HOW TO WATCH

When: Tuesday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Canadian Tire Centre - Ottawa, ON

TV coverage: FOX Sports Florida (check local listings)

Florida Panthers Radio Network Presented by HARD Lifestyle Beverages: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

Where to stream it: FOX Sports GO and NHL.TV (outside state of Florida)

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