SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – One of the teams the Florida Panthers are hoping to catch in the Atlantic Division is coming into their barn to begin the post-All-Star Game portion of the season.
The Ottawa Senators look to continue solidifying their spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs when they begin a three-game road trip against the Panthers on Tuesday.
The Senators hold down second place in the Atlantic after gaining points in six straight games (4-0-2) as goaltender Mike Condon backed up a much-improved defense.
Ottawa finished 26th in the league in goals-against per game last season and is 12th in 2016-17 while moving up from 29th to 12th in penalty killing with first-year coach Guy Boucher.
The Panthers are still trying to find the form that led them to the division title in 2015-16, but are hanging in the race for the postseason with points in 19 of their last 28 contests (10-9-9).
With first-line forwards Jonathan Huberdeau (Achilles) and Aleksander Barkov (back) out, All-Star center Vincent Trocheck stepped up with a team-leading 34 points for Florida – 12 in the last nine games.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Panthers coach Tom Rowe told the Miami Herald. “I have known him an awful long time and he doesn’t take a backseat to anyone out there. Vinnie is really one of the leaders on the team now and when he shows up to play the way he does every night, it’s contagious.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, RDS2, TSN5 (Ottawa), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE SENATORS (26-15-6): Condon boasts a 14-7-5 record with a 2.40 goals-against average and .917 save percentage since being acquired from Pittsburgh to support No. 1 goalie Craig Anderson, who has missed a lot of time to be with his wife Nicholle, who is battling throat cancer.
Ottawa’s offense also picked up with four players sporting at least 33 points, including defenseman Erik Karlsson (team-leading 39).
Left wing Mike Hoffman (35 points) has been red hot of late with seven goals in the last eight games while Mark Stone (35) and Kyle Turris (33) have also contributed.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (21-19-10): Florida got a boost from the return of forward Nick Bjugstad and defenseman Alex Petrovic from the injured list Thursday and pulled out a 2-1 overtime victory over rival Tampa Bay.
Bjugstad skated between Jaromir Jagr and Jared McCann on the Panthers top line during Tuesday’s morning skate after playing mostly on the fourth line during his return from injury against Tampa.
Jonathan Marchessault is the other key player that stepped up in the absence of Huberdeau and Barkov with 31 points and has at least one in four consecutive games.
Rowe told reporters Monday that goalie James Reimer, who subbed for Roberto Luongo (undisclosed injury) Thursday, would get another start against Ottawa because “he deserves it.”
That was the plan until Tuesday morning when Reimer was absent from the Panthers morning skate in order to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Luongo will start and Sam Brittain was called up from the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs to serve as the backup.
- Ottawa F Zack Smith boasts three goals and two assists in the last three contests.
- Florida RW Jaromir Jagr is third on the team with 29 points and needs three to reach 1,900 in his career.
- The teams split a pair of games this season – both in Ottawa.
(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Sports Direct Inc. contributed to this report.)