Tonight the Florida Panthers take on the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that finds these two teams getting closer together in the standings rather than farther apart. The Panthers fortunes have taken a turn for the worse despite the stellar play of netminder Tomas Vokoun as they are hanging on to their playoff lives. Barely.
Stuck with the misfortune of injuries and a complete and utter lack of offence, the Panthers are continuing to have trouble finding the back of the net. Saturday nights loss to the Atlanta Thrashers by a score of 4-2 was a game that the Cats should have won. However two problems caused the loss. Losing a two goal lead, and a powerless power play which was 0-7 against the Thrashers who spent most of their day trying to get home from Washington D.C.
Slipping away is what I would call this situation as far as playoffs go. The forwards have been invisible the last four games as Radek Dvorak who scored both Panther goals Saturday night, broke the barrier for the forward unit. Invisible however have been guys like Cory Stillman, Stephen Reinprecht, (ZERO POINTS in TEN Games!) Michael Frolik and Stephen Weiss. All players who earlier this season when healthy had their share of goals. Let’s also not forget the lack of scoring from the grind lines, with players like Gregory Campbell and Kamil Kreps combining for three goals on the season!
David Booth has returned to the lineup following his concussion symptoms, but looks very rusty at the moment and may not be full stride until after the Olympic break. Florida needs Booth to get hot. Red hot if they have any chance of playing beyond the regular season. I would expect Tomas Vokoun to get the start again in goal as he continues to keep the Panthers in games. They just need to give him some support.
The Hurricanes have almost made a 180 degree turn around from the way they started their season. They have improved their play dramatically and are only 8 points behind the Panthers. While I don’t expect them to make the playoffs, they are certainly capable of being spoilers for other teams. Maybe the change in captaincy has made a difference since Eric Staal was given the “C” and taken over for Rod Brind’Amour.
Carolina always plays the Panthers tough and I would expect tonight to be no different. Even though they have a bunch of players who could be shipped elsewhere, Carolina games always give the Panthers fits. Staal and shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen lead the Canes in goals with 20 each, as Staal is the point leader with 47. Not to be forgotten is ex-Panther and Panther killer Ray Whitney who currently has 16 tallies. Whitney is rumored to be on the move, but has been asking for a three year deal as his current contract expires at the end of the season, and that has killed at least one trade that I’m aware of.
Florida needs this game badly. Another loss would be their fifth in a row, and surely would question the ability of them thinking that they can make the playoffs with this current unit. Whether Florida makes any trades or picks up any players to help solve the scoring issue remains to be seen.
Help is needed. Whether it comes or not will determine their fate.
Thanks for reading.