Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers have dug themselves a deep hole to start the abbreviated 2013 season. The Panthers are just one point out of last place in the Eastern Conference, but just four points out of the final playoff spot.
Florida tries to take a step closer up the standings with a home game against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. Florida is looking to avoid its fourth loss in its last five games and is facing a Montreal team that has been struggling just as much as Florida putting points in the standings.
Montreal has scored first in three of its last four games, but only has one victory to show for it. Ironically, it came against one of the top scoring teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Tuesday.
Florida blew a two-goal lead against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday dropping the game in overtime, 6-5. The loss sent the Panthers record to 4-6-2 on the season and the team has just 10 points in the standings as of Thursday’s game against Montreal.
Florida’s problem is very basic, it’s tied with the Capitals for the second most goals surrendered in the Eastern Conference. Not surprisingly, the three teams with the worst goals against average are either in last place (Buffalo and Washington) or next to last place (Florida) in the Eastern Conference.
“Right now it’s the most important part of the season,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “We need to come out here with as many points as we can. We need to create an identity for ourselves in our home rink.”
One of the Panthers’ biggest problems is between the pipes. Goalie Jose Theodore is giving up 3.41 goals per game and with Florida’s offense being anemic this season, that’s a formula for losing.
But Florida doesn’t have much of an option than to go with the aging Theodore. His backup, Scott Clemmensen, has given up an average of 4.32 goals per game and is stopping just 84 percent of the shots he’s faced this season.
Last season, Theodore gave up just 2.46 goals per game, while Clemmensen gave up 2.57 goals per game. Combined, the duo was 36-22-17 on the season.
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