SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Florida Panthers hope to begin pulling out of their tailspin and avoid a winless three-game homestand when they host the Minnesota Wild on Friday.
The Panthers bridged January and February with eight victories in nine games to climb into a playoff position in the Eastern Conference but have won just once in their last seven contests (1-5-1) after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
“Guys are trying, probably trying too hard,” Florida interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters. “(We’re) trying to overcompensate now, and that’s why we had some of the breakdowns (Tuesday). We just have to get back to playing our game, pressure the puck and have some fun. We just got to loosen up.”
Minnesota still holds a one-point lead over Chicago in the Central Division – and Western Conference – but has dropped three of its last four and lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since early November.
The Wild have scored only five goals over their last four contests after opening a five-game road trip Thursday with a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay.
“After 65 games, this is our first really little bit of adversity that we’ve seen,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters, “so it’s going to be interesting how we handle it the rest of the trip.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN North Plus (Minnesota), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE WILD (42-17-6): Boudreau told reporters after Thursday’s loss that he would like to roll consistent forward lines, but some regulars are not earning time on the top units. Captain Mikko Koivu notched an assist Thursday for his 12th point in 11 games and 50th overall this season – second only to Mikael Granlund (60), who has been held to one over his last four contests. Charlie Coyle has gone 10 games without a point while Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker have been kept off the scoresheet in five and four straight contests, respectively.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (29-25-11): Rowe has changed up his forward lines, putting Reilly Smith beside Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr (one point in eight games) while placing Vincent Trocheck (team-high 45 points) between Jonathan Huberdeau and Colton Sceviour. “We got to change,” Huberdeau, who often has skated with Barkov and Jagr, told reporters. “We’re not scoring goals. We just got to find some new chemistry.” Nick Bjugstad also is expected to center Jonathan Marchessault and newcomer Thomas Vanek, who has posted one goal and a minus-3 rating in three games with the team.
1. The Panthers have killed all 26 penalties over their last 11 games, while the Wild gave up a power-play goal Thursday for the first time in 12 contests.
2. Florida G James Reimer allowed five goals in a three-game span without recording a win before yielding four against the Rangers on Tuesday.
3. The Wild are 7-1-1 in their last nine meetings with the Panthers, including a 5-1 triumph in Minnesota on Dec. 13.
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