Preview: Florida Panthers At Ottawa Senators

Nov 9, 2013; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) is checked by Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot (3) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Panthers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers 13-17-5, 31 pts (7th in Atlantic) at Ottawa Senators 14-16-6, 34 pts (6th in Atlantic)

The Florida Panthers will try to stretch their win streak to five games tonight when they take on the Senators in Ottawa tonight at 7:30 pm ET.

The game tonight will feature two teams trending in opposite directions. The Panthers have won six of eight games to start December while the Senators held a closed door meeting last night following a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Ottawa has been a slight disappointment this season despite only trailing the Red Wings by three points for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. The closed door meeting was a chance for those in charge of the Sens to reiterate that the organization will not except mediocrity, according to Senators’ alternate captain Chris Phillips.

“It was for the most part a message from the top of expectations from them and what we should be expecting of each other,” Phillips said. “It was a good message.”

So far, the Senators have gotten the better of Florida in the two teams first season as Atlantic Division rivals. Ottawa has won both its games against Florida this season, the first a 3-2 win November 9th in Ottawa; a game that also marked Peter Horachek’s Panthers coaching debut. Ottawa then came to Florida and picked up a 4-2 win on December 3rd. Tonight will be the third of four match ups between the two teams with the final game being held March 25th in Florida.

Tonight’s game is huge for the Panthers who have played themselves back into the playoff hunt. Florida is currently three points behind the Senators in the Atlantic Division and a win tonight would close the gap to one. Florida, winners of four straight, has a chance tonight to accomplish their first five game winning streak since March 11-20, 2012.

A big part of their current win streak has been the play of Scott Clemmensen who has filled in admirably for the injured Tim Thomas. In the three games since Thomas went down, Clemmensen has only allowed four goals on 72 shots while picking up three wins and accumulating a .944 Sv% and a 1.30 GAA. Clemmensen should be back in the net tonight and he will be facing off against former Panther Craig Anderson. Anderson has struggled this season (.898 Sv%, 3.36 GAA) but he has always played well against his former team going 10-1-1 with a .938Sv% and a 1.91 GAA. He got the start in Ottawa’s last game against the Panthers and he stopped 30 of 32 shots en route to the 4-2 win.

Jonathan Huberdeau is expected to be back in the Panthers lineup tonight after missing the last two games with a minor foot injury. Here is what I think the Panthers lineup will look like tonight in Ottawa:

Huberdeau-Bjugstad-Upshall

Bergenheim-Barkov-Fleischmann

Kopecky-Goc-Boyes

Barch-Matthias-Hayes

Campbell-Gilbert

Kulikov-Weaver

Olsen-Gudbranson

Scott Clemmensen

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Topics: Florida Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau, Scott Clemmensen

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