Calgary Flames at Florida Panthers game preview
TV: FOX Sports Florida
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
SUNRISE, Fla. — As of late Thursday night, the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames weren’t too far apart either in proximity or in their playoff positioning.
The Flames held the Western Conference’s last postseason slot, while the Panthers were two points back of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
In terms of geographical proximity, the Flames were in Tampa Bay, where they beat the Lightning 3-2 on Thursday night, and the Panthers were a three-hour cab ride away in Sunrise, preparing to host Calgary on Friday night.
Calgary (31-26-4) got goals from Sean Monahan, Dougie Hamilton and Mikael Backlund on Thursday to improve to 7-2-1 in its past 10 games.
“Sometimes it comes together,” Calgary goalie Brian Elliott said after making 23 saves against Tampa Bay. “Guys are clicking a little bit, and it showed tonight.”
For the Panthers (28-21-10), gone is their five-game win streak, with all those victories earned on the road. Florida faltered on Wednesday in its return to the BB&T Center, losing 4-3 to the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said his team gave a good performance despite being tired.
“Four games in six nights, and the effort we got was outstanding,” Rowe said of a Panthers team that fell behind Edmonton three times only to battle back for three tie scores before finally allowing the game-winner.
The Panthers have similar records at home (14-11-3) and on the road (14-10-7). They have 66 points, which puts them two behind the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins in the battle for the last playoff spot in the East. Both the Islanders and Bruins won on Thursday night.
Florida has won eight of its past 10 games, and Rowe said his team is prepared to battle the Islanders, Bruins or any other club that presents itself as a challenger for playoff positioning.
“We’re not going to let one game (the loss to Edmonton) get us off track,” Rowe said. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on here. We’ll regroup and come out ready to play Calgary.”
One of the good things happening for Florida is its health. Ever since the Panthers got Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau off the injured list, the team has been rolling.
Another good thing for Florida is its veteran leadership, led by team captain Derek MacKenzie.
“I talked to Derek about that (on Tuesday),” Rowe said. “He said, ‘We got this.’ Derek is in charge of that (locker) room. He’s got those guys ready. We’re in good position.”
Look for the Panthers to go back to Roberto Luongo in goal on Friday. Backup James Reimer, who is 6-1-1 in his past eight starts, has played well, but after he allowed four goals in the loss to Edmonton on Wednesday, it may be time for Luongo to play.
Elliott started the past four games for the Flames, so they might turn to backup Chad Johnson on Friday. In Johnson’s last start, he allowed four goals in the first two periods against the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 13 before being replaced by Elliott.