3:01 Update: Thanks to George Richards, I can now tell you who's in and out tonight. Steve Eminger gets the call on the blue line, so Nick Boynton is sitting again. Anthony Stewart is the unlucky forward, and Nick Tarnasky gets a shot back in the line up. From the 1 game I saw of Eminger, he belongs in our defense. He jumped up a few times in the rush, had a couple good shots, skated well. Why not? To me, it's closer to Boynton and Jassen Cullimore fighting for the 6th D-man spot.
Every game from here on out will be more important then the last, so I'll fore go all the "must-win" stuff and "crucial 2 points" talk. Every win will be big, every loss will hurt. With just 17 games remaining, the Panthers are one of five teams separated by 2 points. Enough said.
Tonight's opponent, the St. Louis Blues, are in a desperate situation of their own. They are just 4 points out of the final playoff spot, but no fewer then 7 teams are fighting it out. These are the tightest playoff races I can remember. The difference between 5th and 10th place in the east is 2 points. The margin between 6th and 12th in the west is just 4 points. Unreal. It should make for playoff intense hockey the rest of the way. The Blues managed to beat Tampa Bay last night, in OT, so they should be feeling good about themselves. Florida, on the other hand, lost a stinker to Pittsburgh on Thursday, so they should be brewing.
Last night's action was not friendly to Florida fans. Buffalo and Carolina both won, big. They now trail the 6th-8th pack by just 1 point. The Sabres and 'Canes go again tonight, so it's possible they could jump the 3-way tie for 8th and create their own 2-way tie, unless Florida can get a win. The 2 teams FLA is tied with, Pitt and the NYR, are off. It won't be easy for the Panthers. St. Louis is 8-3-3 since Feb. 3, and has the NHL's best record over the previous 20 games. Florida is going to have to play a full 60 minutes tonight to skate away with the W.
Tomas Vokoun starts tonight in what will be his 500th career game. Puck drops at 7:00 from a hopefully raucous BAC.