Florida Panthers

Enough of the losing: Florida Panthers playoff run has to start now

Keith Yandle celebrates with his Florida teammates after Jonathan Marchessault (81) scored in the first period of Sunday’s loss tot he Ottawa Senators.
Keith Yandle celebrates with his Florida teammates after Jonathan Marchessault (81) scored in the first period of Sunday’s loss tot he Ottawa Senators. AP

The Florida Panthers haven’t given up on their season despite a disappointing week.

Nor should they.

With 21 games left — many against teams they are chasing in the standings — the Panthers have plenty of opportunity to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot and see what they can do in the postseason.

Their playoff run needs to start Tuesday when the struggling Carolina Hurricanes visit BB&T Center. It’s time for the Panthers to halt their three-game slide and get back to the business of picking up spots in the standings.

“We’re still in the race and there’s no reason to start feeling sorry for ourselves or get down,” Nick Bjugstad said after practice on Monday.

“We have to keep going. ... Obviously being on a skid like this isn’t what we wanted but we have to stay positive.”

The Panthers watched momentum run away from them after they polished off a five-game road sweep last Monday. Florida came into Wednesday with wins in eight of nine yet lost to the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

On Friday, they lost to the Calgary Flames. Sunday, it was the Ottawa Senators and former Florida goalie Craig Anderson getting the honors.

“We know we have lost a few here but we know we still have the fight in us, have the team that can get it done,” Keith Yandle said. “There are ups and downs and every season. We just have to stay strong, stay confident and we’ll be OK.”

The Panthers have lost four consecutive home games dating to Feb. 9 and need to turn that around in a hurry. Florida will visit Philadelphia on Thursday then come back for another three-game homestand.

Florida plays five of its next seven in Sunrise and could really use some home points.

“We have had some bad luck at home, I guess you could say,” coach Tom Rowe said. “We told the guys it’s not like we got eliminated [on Sunday].

“It was disappointing because we had so many chances and couldn’t finish. But we’ll be fine. The guys are upbeat and positive. It’ll definitely turn.”

▪ Greg McKegg was put on waivers Sunday and was working with Florida’s fourth line Monday when practice came to a halt around noon as the Panthers got word the Tampa Bay Lightning claimed McKegg.

The Panthers gave their now former teammate a rousing round of applause as he skated off the ice to gather his stuff and make the not-so-long trek across the state.

McKegg played in 46 games for the Panthers since coming over from the Maple Leafs last season yet had been a healthy scratch for eight of Florida’s past 10 games.

The Panthers put McKegg on waivers gambling he would clear and be sent to the minors if a roster spot was needed as the trade deadline approaches Wednesday at 3 p.m.

FACEBOOK VIDEO: Greg McKegg talks about joining the Tampa Bay Lightning VIA One Panther Parkway

Instead, McKegg will likely face the Panthers as a member of the Lightning next week in Tampa.

“It’s exciting to be able to go over there and get an opportunity,” McKegg said outside the Florida locker room. “I was just talking to a couple of the guys [about the upcoming game] and I’m sure that will be a little weird. It’ll be fun.”

Said Rowe: “We’re disappointed we lost him because I had him in the minors and he’s a great kid. But good for him. We have to manage roster and sometimes you lose a player who you like. That’s the way it is in the salary cap era. We knew what the risks were.”

▪ Even though Roberto Luongo told the Miami Herald on Sunday he “didn’t deserve to be playing right now,” he’ll get a chance to get back in net Tuesday.

Rowe said Luongo (2-2-0 this month, making 87 percent of his saves) would get the start against Carolina.

TUESDAY: HURRICANES AT PANTHERS

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.

Series: Carolina leads 59-43-11.

Scouting report: This is the first time Florida and Carolina have played since the Panthers lost 3-2 in Raleigh on Nov. 27 and fired coach Gerard Gallant after his postgame media session. Florida is 17-13-9 since. Carolina has lost six of its past seven.

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