Apr 21, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) tries to get around Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) during the third period of a NHL game. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Day Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs At Florida Panthers

Toronto Maple Leafs 25-16-5 (55 pts) at Florida Panthers 14-26-6 (34 pts)

The Florida Panthers play their final home game of the season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Florida is coming off a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday a win that snapped a six game losing streak.

Jacob Markstrrom led the way stopping 34 of 36 shots while Tomas Fleischmann managed a goal and an assist. Fleischmann is the Panthers leading scorer this season with 14 goals and 23 assists. He is trailed by Jonathan Huberdeau who will look to add to his 28 points tonight to put some distance between himself and Ottawa’s Cory Conacher in the rookie scoring race.

The Panthers will announce their team MVP before the game tonight, an award that fans are allowed to vote on. My bet for the Panthers MVP is Brian Campbell but I would not be surprised to see Jonathan Huberdeau or maybe Tomas Fleischmann win.

It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd shows up to the BB&T Center tonight. The Maple Leafs are always a huge draw, and the unmitigated anticipation over Toronto ending its nine year playoff drought is sure to make for an especially pro-Leafs crowd.

The Maple Leafs are 2-0 this year against the Panthers and have the chance for the sweep tonight. The Leafs can exact a bit of revenge on the Panthers who swept Toronto last season in the teams’ four match ups.

While Toronto has already clinched the playoffs, their seeding is still up in the air and the team will have every reason to come out hard tonight against the Panthers. Toronto currently occupies the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference but still has a slight chance to catch their rival Montreal Canadiens who sit four points ahead in the fourth seed. The Leafs are also only one point ahead of the six place New York Islanders so a win tonight in Florida is crucial.

The Panthers will be without Dmitry Kulikov for the rest of the season as he suffered an upper body injury Sunday against the Boston Bruins. It doesn’t look like Kulikov’s injury is too serious but there is no reason for him to play in the Panthers remaining two games.

Even without Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, and Tyson Strachan the Panthers defense was surprisingly solid Tuesday against the Rangers. Players like T.J. Brennan, Colby Robak and Alex Petrovic stepped up and have been showing marked improvement in the past two games. The Panthers roster filled with youth and inexperience but many of Florida’s young players have been getting invaluable ice-time in these last few weeks of the season.



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Tags: Florida Panthers Toronto Maple Leafs

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