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Lessons For The Road

Playing against teams below them in the standings, Panthers look to play their brand of hockey and pick up points.

Monday, 03.26.2012 / 6:15 PM ET / News
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Lessons For The Road
Florida enters Tuesday night's game with a 16-15-5 record away from the BankAtlantic Center (Getty Images).
The Panthers touched down in Montreal late Monday afternoon to begin a crucial four-game road trip.

With the team set to be in close quarters for the next six days, head coach Kevin Dineen gave his players the morning off to recharge the batteries and spend time with the family before leaving for the trip.

Florida looks to get back on track after having fallen in their last three games, including their last two at home via the shootout. The Panthers (currently with 87 points) have seven games left on the schedule. Five come away from the BankAtlantic Center.

"It's a game of bounces," lamented Dineen following the Panthers most recent loss, a 3-2 setback to the Islanders on Sunday. "We had some really good opportunities down the stretch. I don't walk out of here like I did the other night against Edmonton. I felt like that was a game that we weren't as assertive and I think we had that brand of hockey tonight. That's what we're going to continue to need."

Those bounces that Dineen speaks of can be seen in the third period of Sunday's game. Up a goal in the third thanks to Tomas Fleischmann's 24th of the season, the Islanders pushed the puck up the ice. Kyle Okposo sent what looked like a relatively harmless shot on goal. Skating back to defend a crashing Mark Streit, defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was in perfect position. Defensively, he was but the Okposo shot hit Kulikov's stick and deflected past Jose Theodore for the tying goal.

For the Panthers, the team has to play just like their opponents have. Despite both Edmonton and New York out of the playoff chase and playing the night before, the teams, along with Carolina on Wednesday night, have played a loose game, attacking more times than not.

"We felt like two teams that were completely out of it but we have to realize as a team that the pride and the parity of this league is right there," said defenseman Ed Jovanovski. "We have to be ready to go every night."

"It was tough playing against loose teams like Edmonton and the Islanders are," said Fleischmann. "They don't feel fear of losing 2-1 so they go up the ice. They always feel that they can score and that's what they did. Next thing you know it's a tied game."

"It's a loose hockey club," said center Stephen Weiss, specifically of the Islanders. "They're playing loose and those teams are tough to play against sometimes because you don't know really what to expect or how to prepare for them.

"Obviously we have to find a way to get two points."

Playing loose on the road can't be confused with playing relaxed however.

"I don't think you can relax any more right now. It's the end of the season," said Fleischmann. "We're a tight group right now because Washington is coming after us for the playoffs. It's a fight right now. It's good to be a little bit nervous and I think we're going to prove it on the road."

With Washington's victory over Minnesota Sunday, the Panthers are just three points up in the division race. They do however have a game in hand.

The first three games of the road trip are against teams that are out of the playoffs. Montreal sits 15th in the Eastern Conference while Minnesota (13th) and Columbus (15th) are out of the playoff picture in the West. Playing in the opposing team's barns, the Panthers have to come out with a strong opening period and get a goal or two. That will hopefully jump start the offense once again.

"You have to have jump this time of year. If you don't have jump now then something is missing," said Weiss. "You just have to find ways to score some goals. We're not scoring enough goals. Whatever that is, whatever the formula is, we have to find a way to put the puck in the net and get some more run support for our goalies because they're playing great. We just have to find some ways to score some goals. We're getting chances but just not bearing down."

"We have to find a way to worry about Montreal right now," said Jovanovski. "It's going to be a tough building to play in regardless of where they are in the standings. It's an emotionally loud crowd who will be into it. (We) have to get a jump on them early."

In the best essence though, the Panthers have to look at it like they are the underdogs and not the teams that should just be given the win because of where they are in the standings.

"Lesson learned," said Dineen.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jagr 72 15 26 -3 41
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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