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First-year Florida Panthers coach Pete DeBoer wasn't happy with his team's effort in its last game. The four-game losing streak that has dropped Florida out of a playoff position surely made it more exasperating.
DeBoer hopes the Panthers can halt their untimely slide Thursday by sweeping their season series from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Panthers (34-26-10) have fallen to ninth in the Eastern Conference as a result of their skid, which continued Tuesday as they failed to generate a shot on goal in the third period of a 3-0 loss to Washington. The poor performance came three nights after Florida opened a five-game homestand with a 4-3 shootout loss to last-place Tampa Bay.
"(Tuesday) was the first night I've been really disappointed with how we've played," DeBoer said. "There's been very few nights this year where I've questioned our effort level. They haven't always been pretty and we haven't always won but usually we've brought a good desperation level, and the effort's always been there. (Tuesday), it was questionable.
"If you can't look at the standings and create that desperation now, I don't know how you create it. We know where we're sitting and the fight we're in. That should be self-manufactured this time of year. You're not going to create that if they can't create it themselves."
The Panthers, who haven't qualified for the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season, will snap their slide if they can sweep their four-game season series from Toronto (29-29-13). Florida took the last matchup 5-4 at home on Feb. 10, and hasn't swept the Maple Leafs 1995-96, when the teams only faced each other twice.
Stephen Weiss, Florida's leader with 50 points, has two goals and four assists in the three meetings so far this season.
The center hasn't been as productive recently, with only two assists in the last six games - five of them Panthers losses .
The Leafs, 11th in the East, are looking for a third consecutive victory after rallying from a three-goal, second-period deficit to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday, avoiding a sweep in that season series.
"I know we never said die and kept battling, kept shooting pucks and then completely dominated that third period," Maple Leafs defenseman Ian White said.
John Mitchell has helped key Toronto's consecutive victories. The rookie center began the Leafs' comeback Tuesday, netting a goal with 24 seconds to play in the second period, and had the deciding shootout score in the sixth round of the tiebreaker. Mitchell had another goal and an assist in Saturday's 8-6 home win over Calgary.
Left wing Jason Blake, the Leafs' leader with 24 goals and 56 points, has two goals and three assists in the last four games after failing to register a point in the previous three.
Blake has four goals and 12 points in his last 11 games against the Panthers.
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