Olli Jokinen was right when he said earlier in the week the Panthers were headed in the right direction.
And the direction is up in the Southeast Division standings.
Less than 24 hours after an exciting, shootout victory Wednesday in Washington, the Panthers will be back at it tonight when they play host to the Bruins at BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers are now only four points out of first-place in the Southeast and are back at .500 after improving their record to 3-0 in shootouts this season.
The Panthers, who have won four consecutive games and five of their last six, will attempt tonight to win five consecutive games for the first time since March of the 2006 season. Craig Anderson will get the start in goal.
After winning only three games in the month of November last season, and only four over the past two years, the Panthers have won seven games this month.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 32 shots, including seven in overtime, stopped eight of 11 Capitals in the shootout and made a huge save on Alex Ovechkin with 12 seconds left in overtime.
Goaltender Craig Anderson makes his first home start of the season when the Panthers take on the Bruins tonight.
With Vokoun getting the night off, Anderson will start his fourth game of the season and first since Nov. 13. The 26-year-old has played well in all three of his starts with a 2.68 goals against. His only previous start against the Bruins in 2004.
“I prepare every game like I’m going to play,” said Anderson, who spends more time on the ice during practice and goes through a slightly different workout regiment off the ice.
“I try to use practice as best I can to stay in shape,” Anderson said. “I make sure I do everything off the ice I possibly can to stay strong so when I get into a game I don’t have fatigue later in the game. Sixty minutes is a long game. The tempo is obviously a faster pace than practice. I do a lot more cardio, endurance stuff in the weight room with (strength and conditioning coach) Andy O’Brien. I’ll be doing more on the treadmill and elliptical machine.”
Anderson said the only difference between starting and backing up Vokoun: He likes to jump over the boards coming off the ice when he’s starting as opposed to going through the door.
The Bruins begin a stretch this evening of 10 games in 17 days.
MURPHY CONTINUES TO REHAB
While his teammates were preparing Wednesday for their game in Washington, defenseman Cory Murphy worked out alone inside the Panthers locker room at the BankAtlantic Center aboard an elliptical trainer.
The popular defenseman, who bruised a shoulder Nov. 13 in Atlanta, has yet to return to the lineup. But Murphy, like other injured Panthers Brett McLean, Mike Van Ryn and Noah Welch, continue working and skating.
“It’s a slower process than I would have liked,” said Murphy of his shoulder. “But it’s getting better. Slow and steady, I guess. It’s been a stubborn bruise.”
Murphy suffered the injury during a collision in the neutral zone against the Thrashers. He’s skating on his own and is now “doing a little stick stuff.”
GM and coach Jacques Martin isn’t counting on Murphy to be back in the lineup any time this week. “He’s still having problems passing the puck,” he said. “He hasn’t practiced with the team so he’s still a ways away.”