In the time it took you to rid your home of Thanksgiving turkey and break the addiction to tryptophan, the Panthers have become a contender.
Yes, in less than a week, the Panthers have gone from Eastern Conference bottom dwellers to the hottest team in the Southeast Division and one that’s only three points from the eighth playoff spot.
The reversal has been no small feat, especially when you consider they handed Washington their only home loss in regulation Tuesday evening without three of their leading scorers – David Booth, Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton.
Yes, the Panthers slow churn into contenders seems to be slowly happening. They’re 5-3-2 over their last 10 games and 3-0-2 in their last five, picking up eight of a possible 10 points.
The Panthers return Thursday to the BankAtlantic Center to play host to the Sabres off a 4-0 victory Sunday against the Rangers and a 5-3 win over the Capitals.
And they’re getting help from everybody.
Consider the line of Ville Peltonen, Radek Dvorak and Gregory Campbell. The three have combined for nine goals and 10 assists in the last six games.
Peltonen has four goals and three assists over those half dozen games while Dvorak has a game-winning goal and five assists and Campbell three goals.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a plus-5 in the last two games and has three goals in the last four games and three assists while defenseman Bryan McCabe has 10 points in his last 12 games.
“Obviously, with the adversity of the injuries and the quality of the players we had out of the lineup, we really had to play a good team game, and I think we did that against two pretty potent teams in New York and Washington,” said Panthers’ coach Peter DeBoer. “Our guys showed up with a game plan, executed it, and got rewarded.”
Added Bouwmeester after the team’s victory Tuesday evening; “We put in a lot of work tonight and had success.”
|Forward Ville Peltonen (center) has picked up his play with Cory Stillman, David Booth and Nathan Horton out of the lineup, recording seven points (4G, 3A) in the last six games. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson) |
The Panthers recent success, specifically without Booth, Horton and Stillman, is “critical,” according to DeBoer.
“I think from a confidence point of view its critical because what it shows us is, regardless of the talent level, if we are on the same page and follow our systems we can have success,” he said. “The key to being a good team is putting that skill back in the lineup and not having a dropoff of that play.
“I think it’s a message to all the guys who are out of the lineup of the expectations when they return.”
Peltonen, who DeBoer referred to as the “consummate professional,” has played well over the past several weeks and Anthony Stewart, playing alongside Shawn Matthias
and recently-acquired Nick Tarnasky, had in Washington what DeBoer considered “probably the best game he’s played.”
Matthias, called up from the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester last week, played 11:55 in Washington while Kenndal McArdle, called up Tuesday, played 5:26.
Goalie Craig Anderson, who earned his sixth career shutout with a 4-0 victory Sunday against the Rangers, ran his record to 5-1-3 with Tuesday’s win in Washington. He is 13-3-3 when starting since January 2008.
Anderson will likely be in goal Thursday against Buffalo. Unfortunately, DeBoer said Booth (shoulder) is “doubtful” for the game due to a shoulder injury. Horton (ankle) and Stillman (concussion) were to be evaluated Wednesday but are also doubtful.