Florida Panthers

Losing streak hurts, but Florida Panthers remain poised for playoff push

Goalie Roberto Luongo said the Panthers shouldn’t be concerned with the standings. ‘We just have to be worried about ourselves.’
Goalie Roberto Luongo said the Panthers shouldn’t be concerned with the standings. ‘We just have to be worried about ourselves.’ AP

Despite losing four straight games heading into the All-Star break, all is not lost for the Panthers.

With 50 points at the break, Florida remains in contention for a playoff berth.

So where do the Panthers stand?

Following Monday’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver, the Panthers were four points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Right now, catching Boston is Florida’s most realistic shot for the playoffs.

The Bruins have struggled but still lead Florida in the standings.

And while the Panthers are done playing until next week, Boston had games on Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning the Panthers, if Boston were to win both, could come out of the break eight points behind the Bruins.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is Boston will have played four more games than the Panthers giving Florida a chance to catch up. And the two division rivals face each other three more times, giving the Panthers plenty of points to get back into things.

“We don’t have to be worried about the standings; we just have to be worried about ourselves,’’ goalie Roberto Luongo said.

“We know how we’re capable of playing because we did it throughout the first half of the season. We had a lot of low-scoring games, but we took them to overtime. We have to play hard every night and that starts from me on out. We need to recharge and come back with a fresh attitude.’’

Lost opportunities was a buzzword around the locker room following Monday’s loss as just a week ago, the Panthers not only had games in hand on just about everyone in the division, but were a point out of a playoff spot.

Although Florida didn’t lose much ground, wins in two of the three home games coming back from its 4-2-0 road trip would have put the Panthers in a much more comfortable spot.

Luongo might say his teammates shouldn’t look at the standings, but it’s inevitable they will.

“We should have capitalized and didn’t,’’ Nick Bjugstad said. “We haven’t gone through a losing streak like this all year. It depends on how we handle it, deal with the adversity.

“We want to come back with a little chip on our shoulder, be angry about these past few games. We have to forget them and move on.’’

TROCHECK TO MINORS

Center Vincent Trocheck planned to spend the NHL’s All-Star break at a ski resort in Pennsylvania but instead will be playing in Cleveland.

On Tuesday, the Panthers sent Trocheck back to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Trocheck was expected to make it in time for the Rampage’s home game Tuesday against Texas. San Antonio also plays two games at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena against Lake Erie this weekend.

▪ As expected, centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel remain the top two prospects ranked by NHL Central Scouting at the mid-point of the season.

The duo are expected to be the top two picks at the upcoming draft held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Buffalo and Edmonton are currently tied for last in the NHL standings.

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