SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It has become do-or-die time for the Florida Panthers and their dwindling playoff chances.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have recovered from a five-game losing streak to claw back into postseason contention, but a similar skid may have doomed the Panthers.
Toronto, which is clinging to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, goes for its fourth straight win when it visits the Panthers on Tuesday night.
The Maple Leafs are also seeking their fourth victory in as many meetings this season with the Panthers in the second stop of a three-game road trip.
“We know how critical each game is,” Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk said after Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win at Carolina. “It seems like we’re going game-for-game with all these other teams around us, and everyone seems to be keeping pace.”
Florida has dropped eight of its last nine games (1-7-1) after coughing up a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss at in-state rival Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Panthers are nine points behind Toronto but center Derek MacKenzie insisted the team doesn’t feel it is out of the playoff chase.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN4, TVA Sports (Toronto), FSN Florida, NHL.TV
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (31-22-14): Frederik Andersen has sparked Toronto’s revival by allowing two goals in five consecutive starts while making 36 saves in each of his last two appearances.
“For this past month or two he’s been our best player. He’s really risen to the challenge,” said defenseman Morgan Rielly, who scored the winning goal in overtime at Carolina. “He’s a huge part of this team.”
Anderson has won all three starts with a 1.62 goals-against average versus Florida this season.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (29-27-11): With No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo still sidelined by a lower-body injury, James Reimer is poised to make his fifth consecutive start against the team with which he played his first 6 1/2 seasons.
Reimer is winless in his last seven appearances (0-6-1) and will be without top defenseman Aaron Ekblad and rookie Dennis Malgin, who both sustained concussions at Tampa Bay.
Look for Jakub Kindl and Michael Sgarbossa to take their places in the lineup.
Reimer has allowed 15 goals in his last three starts and six goals in his only start versus Toronto.
- Maple Leafs rookie F Mitch Marner has two goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.
- Panthers F Jonathan Marchessault has three goals and an assist in three meetings with Toronto this season.
- Van Riemsdyk has two goals and three points in the three matchups versus Florida.
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