Florida Panthers

For Florida Panthers, dismal season finally coming to a close

Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers works the puck during the third period of Saturday’s loss in Boston to the Bruins.
Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers works the puck during the third period of Saturday’s loss in Boston to the Bruins. AP

The Miami Marlins open their season on Monday afternoon in Washington D.C., with all the optimism Opening Day brings.

The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, kick off something different Monday, as their game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens marks the start of the final week of a disappointing season which mercifully ends Sunday, coincidentally, in Washington.

While the Marlins head into Monday with a clean slate, the Panthers are simply looking to try to play with pride and finish things up strong.

Maybe.

Since rolling past Chicago 7-0 at BB&T Center on March 25, Florida went 0-4 on a road trip in which it was outscored 18-8, including 11-4 in the final two games.

It appears the Panthers can’t wait for this long and strange season to finally be over with.

“For sure, it was the best effort,” interim coach Tom Rowe said glumly following Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the host Bruins in a game in which Boston never trailed.

“We had opportunities, decent power plays. We just didn’t capitalize on chances down low.”

As the 2016-17 campaign grinds to its end, there are a few things to look for, including:

▪ Rookie defenseman Ian McCoshen and MacKenzie Weegar have apparently been called up from Florida’s AHL team in Massachussetts, with both likely to make their NHL debuts during the final week of the season.

Weegar was called up earlier this season when Aaron Ekblad was first out of the lineup because of a concussion yet did not play before being sent back down.

The Panthers will likely give him a chance this time around.

▪ Florida might also get veteran goalie Roberto Luongo back in net at least one more time this season.

Luongo has been out since leaving a loss in Philadelphia on March 1 after one period after aggravating an injury related to the hip surgery he underwent last summer.

With James Reimer thought to be concussed after colliding with Toronto’s Brian Boyle, rookie goalie Adam Wilcox could also play in his first NHL game this week.

▪ Center Sasha Barkov has missed the past two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury, with Rowe saying the team would wait until this week to determine if he is able to return.

Ekblad has also been out since returning for one game on March 21.

▪ Vincent Trocheck, Florida’s lone All-Star this season, has been stuck on 22 goals since Feb. 28 — 16 games ago — and would like to get a few more in the final few games.

Jonathan Marchessault can also reach the 30-goal plateau with another goal.

▪ Future Hall of Fame forward Jaromir Jagr is a pending free agent, with neither he nor the team hinting whether he will return to the Panthers next season.

▪ Florida hosts the Canadiens, St. Louis Blues (Thursday) and Buffalo Sabres (Saturday) before wrapping up the season on Sunday at the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

Monday: Canadiens at Panthers

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

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

Series: Tied 42-42-6.

Scouting report: Montreal has won two of three this season against Florida, including a 6-2 home win Thursday as the Canadiens took a 3-0 first-period lead. … The Canadiens have won four games in a row and clinched a playoff spot by beating the Panthers.

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