|MIN||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|FLA||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
The Florida Panthers are slumping at a bad time, and they could have a problem breaking out of their slide against the Minnesota Wild.
The Panthers go for their first win in more than seven years against the Wild when the teams meet on Friday night at BankAtlantic Center.
Florida (28-30-8) has dropped five of its last six games, including Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto. The Panthers have their eyes on their first playoff appearance since 2000, but are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind Philadelphia and Buffalo for the eighth and final postseason spot.
Florida is also in third place in the Southeast Division, seven points behind first-place Carolina.
"We just sort of caught a bad stretch at a wrong time," the Panthers' Jay Bouwmeester said. "If you look at throughout the year, there's been times where we could have gotten over that hump and put ourselves in a lot better position and never been able to do that."
Breaking out of their current skid on Friday won't be easy for the Panthers, who have dropped their last five games against the Wild (35-24-5) since a 2-1 home win on Feb. 7, 2001. The teams are meeting for the first time since Minnesota's 4-2 home win on Feb. 8, 2007.
"We've just got to be better and win some games," Florida's Olli Jokinen said. "This is not fun."
Jokinen leads the Panthers with 30 goals and 31 assists, but has just one goal in eight games since he accidentally cut teammate Richard Zednik's neck with his skate Feb. 10 in Buffalo.
Jassen Cullimore, Brett McLean and Rostislav Olesz each scored Wednesday for Florida, which gave up the tying goal with 1:08 left in regulation.
Four of the Panthers' last five losses have come after they had two-goal leads, and three of those collapses came in the third period. The other defeat over that span was a 5-0 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers, Florida's most lopsided of the season.
"There's nothing we can do about the past. We just have to look forward," Jokinen said. "You can't change the past."
The Wild, meanwhile, are tied with Calgary for first in the Northwest Division. They ended a four-game losing streak with Wednesday's 3-2 victory at Tampa Bay.
"We lost a lot of confidence the last couple of games, but that was a huge game for us and obviously a huge win," said Pavol Demitra, who scored for Minnesota.
Todd Fedoruk and Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild, and Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves - he had 41 in Minnesota's last game against Florida.
Minnesota had managed only four goals in its previous four games.
"I think both teams wanted to turn the ship around," Backstrom said. "I think this is the last chance to turn the ship around if you want to be in the run for a playoff spot. I think it was a great hockey game, and we're real happy to get the two points."
|Feb 29 '08||MIN 3 at FLA 2||B. Burns|