Saying the Florida Panthers have nothing to play for might not be entirely accurate.
Until one of their players reaches 40 points for the season, the club can play to avoid becoming the first team in more than a decade without a 40-point scorer.
With five games remaining, the Panthers’ next chance to work toward avoiding the unwanted distinction comes Friday night at home against the Calgary Flames.
The NHL’s last team leader in points in an 82-game season with under 40 points was Scott Pellerin of the Minnesota Wild in 2000-01, their inaugural season. Pellerin finished with 11 goals and 28 assists but played in just 58 games.
Florida (27-42-8) has four players with a realistic shot at reaching the bland benchmark: Nick Bjugstad (35 points), Brian Campbell (35), Scottie Upshall (35) and Brad Boyes (34), though Upshall and Boyes are dealing with injuries.
Another point from any of the top three will finally push them past last season’s top point scorer, Tomas Fleischmann, who had 35 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season. The franchise’s lowest top scorers for a full season are Stephen Weiss (2010-11) and Pavel Bure (2001-02) with 49 points.
A sudden outburst from any of the current crew might also help the Panthers do away with a four-game losing streak and a 1-7-0 stretch during which they’ve scored 11 goals.
"We have to stay positive and try to end the season with better efforts," Bjugstad said after Tuesday’s 4-2 road loss to the New York Islanders.
Florida took a 1-0 lead on a short-handed goal by Quinton Howden, but the Islanders scored the next four before Brandon Pirri tacked one on in the closing seconds.
Scott Clemmensen made 36 saves in his first start since March 1. He’s 0-3-0 with a 4.69 goals-against average in three starts since Jan. 30.
The Panthers could have No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo back to face the Flames. He practiced Thursday after missing the last three games with a mild concussion, and he’s plenty familiar with the Flames from his time in Vancouver, compiling a 12-2-3 record with a 1.84 GAA against them since Dec. 27, 2009.
As for injuries sustained against the Islanders, Upshall left in the first period after being hit in the face but later returned. Boyes left in the first due to a pre-existing back injury and didn’t return.
Calgary (32-38-7) now visits as the Panthers begin a five-game homestand to end the season while the Flames play their fourth on a five-game road trip.
They snapped a two-game skid with Thursday’s 4-1 victory at Tampa Bay. Karri Ramo, playing his first season in Calgary after suiting up for the Lightning from 2006-09, made 31 saves. Curtis Glencross scored twice and Michael Cammalleri had a goal and an assist to give him 18 points in his last 13 games.
"Getting an early lead against this team is huge," said Kevin Westgarth, who scored 15 seconds after Cammalleri to give them a 2-0 first-period lead. "They have a pretty high-powered offense and with Steven Stamkos on the ice, no lead is safe. So getting those quick goals was nice for momentum and Karri was strong in goal."
Joey MacDonald is set to spell Ramo against the Panthers. He’s 1-4-0 with a 3.32 GAA since Oct. 16.
The Flames won the first meeting against the Panthers this season, a 4-3 shootout victory in Calgary on Nov. 22.