Struggling Panthers Try To Stay Afloat In Playoff Race Against Visiting Rangers

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SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – Several teams are in the running for the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but none of them have been playing particularly well of late.

One of those teams are the Florida Panthers, who face a tall order Tuesday as they attempt to break out of their slump and remain close in the playoff race when they host the New York Rangers.

Florida has won just one of its last six contests (1-4-1) as it sits two points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and five behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division.

The Panthers scored one goal in each of their last three defeats, including a setback against Dallas on Saturday in the opener of their three-game homestand.

Monday’s practice saw interim head coach Tom Rowe, who is also the Panthers general manager, shake up the forward lines.

Top goal scorer Vincent Trocheck will center a line with Thomas Vanek and Jonathan Marchessault while Nick Bjugstad will center Trocheck’s old line, with wingers Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen.

Florida’s top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr remains intact as it has continuously created scoring chances.

The Panthers will need these changes to produce more offense versus New York, which ranks among the top teams in the league in scoring (211 goals).

The Rangers, who won four straight and eight of nine on the road, tallied one Monday but still came away with the victory in Tampa Bay as Mika Zibanejad snapped a scoreless tie at 3:56 of overtime with his second goal in 20 contests.

Antti Raanta made 38 saves en route to his career-high third shutout of the campaign, but leading scorer J.T. Miller (48 points) remained one goal shy of recording his second straight 20-goal season as his drought reached six games.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), FSN Florida

ABOUT THE RANGERS (42-22-2): Despite being among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL, New York struggled of late, recording fewer than three goals in nine of its last 10 games.

The absence of Michael Grabner hasn’t helped as the veteran right wing, who leads the team with 26 goals, missed his third straight contest Monday with a hip/oblique injury.

Rugged left wing Tanner Glass was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League and made his season debut against the Lightning, registering two hits while engaging in a fight in 5 minutes, 17 seconds of ice time.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (29-24-11): Trocheck, who leads the team in goals (22) and points (43), has landed on the scoresheet just once in his last six games – tallying against Carolina on Feb. 28.

The 23-year-old All-Star center notched a pair of assists before scoring the decisive shootout goal in Florida’s 3-2 triumph at New York on Nov. 20.

Vanek, acquired by the Panthers at the trade deadline, has yet to record a point in two games with the Panthers after registering 38 in 48 contests with Detroit.

OVERTIME

  1. Panthers G Roberto Luongo remains sidelined with a lower body injury. He is two victories away from passing Curtis Joseph (454) for fourth place on the all-time list.
  2. New York RW Brandon Pirri needs two points to reach 100 for his career.
  3. Goalie James Reimer will start in goal for Florida. He has allowed fewer than three goals in five of his last six starts.

[graphiq id=”lBnTjpfWt1P” title=”NHL Standings” width=”600″ height=”665″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/lBnTjpfWt1P” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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