TORONTO (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers will see a familiar face when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.READ MORE: Survey Shows Some Of The Most Vulnerable To Severe Flu Illness Aren’t Getting Vaccinated Against It
Peter Horachek did his best as interim coach of the Panthers last season to keep the club motivated during a rough campaign.
He now finds himself in a similar position with Toronto, and he admits it’s becoming more difficult with a recent trade and the rumors circulating of more to come.
Horachek faces his former team Tuesday night in Toronto as both clubs look to avoid a fourth straight defeat.
Horachek was promoted from Florida’s AHL affiliate after general manager Dale Tallon fired Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8, 2013. Horachek went 26-36-4, then was fired April 29 as Tallon said “it wasn’t quite the right fit.”
After the Maple Leafs (23-29-5) fired Randy Carlyle on Jan. 6, Horachek was promoted from an assistant to try to help spark the club. Toronto, though, has gone 2-13-2 under Horachek.
In the first of what figures to be multiple deals before the March 2 deadline, the Leafs traded forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson to Nashville on Sunday for forward Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick in June’s draft.
“I think it’s really hard for the guys who think they may be moved. It’s a very difficult situation,” Horachek said. “You try to talk to them, but it’s hard. The room has to help each other. It doesn’t do anybody any good to not perform or not practice hard or play hard.”
General manager Dave Nonis hinted on a conference call shortly after the deal that Jokinen also could be moved. Jokinen, who had four 30-goal seasons for the Panthers from 2000-08, couldn’t practice Monday and is questionable to play as Santorelli and Franson complete their physicals and paperwork with the Predators.
“Right now I’m a Maple Leaf, and I’ll approach it day by day,” Jokinen said.READ MORE: New NASA Mission Will Help Unlock The Secrets Of Extreme Cosmic Objects
Daniel Winnik, who scored in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal, also has been the subject of trade talks.
“It’s great that other teams are looking at you and feel you can help them, but it always (stinks) when people want to get rid of you,” Winnik said. “You just have to know they’re rumors and take it for what it is.”
The Panthers (24-19-12) did some retooling in the offseason – including signing Dave Bolland to a long-term deal from Toronto – and are fighting for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot.
Horachek was still an assistant when the Maple Leafs blew a two-goal lead by allowing four in the third period of a 6-4 loss to Florida on Dec. 28.
The Panthers, who have won three straight meetings with Toronto, have allowed five goals and scored twice during an 0-2-1 skid.
Nick Bjugstad has both goals after scoring in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis. Roberto Luongo made 32 saves in the Panthers’ last home game before a five-game trip.
“We’ve got to find a way to get two points,” Luongo said. “It’s nice to get the point, but it’s not going to cut it in the long run if we don’t win games.”
Luongo is 11-1-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average in his last 13 starts against the Leafs, who could go with Jonathan Bernier in net.
Bernier has started the last two, falling to 0-7-2 in his last nine despite a 2.66 GAA.
Florida will be without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who was suspended four games on Monday for a low hit on Dallas forward Tyler Seguin in Friday’s 2-0 loss.MORE NEWS: Biden Administration Implementing New Travel Rules To Help Combat Spread Of Omicron Variant
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)