The Florida Panthers finally got some help last night, as the New York Rangers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes, meaning a win tonight over the Thrashers, and Florida is tied with NYR for the 8th and final playoff spot. Unfortunately for the Cats, both New York and Montreal, who is now 3 points up on Florida in 7th, have 2 more wins then the Panthers. This means that will more then likely have to finish with more points, with wins being the first tie breaker. The 2nd tie breaker, you ask? If Florida ends up with the same amount of wins as MTL or NYR, it comes to head to head, which would put Florida in over the Rangers, but not the Canadiens. With just 5 games left for Panthers, it's imperative that Florida earn points against the teams lower then them in the standings.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. There are still those 5 games remaining on the schedule, none more important then the one they are playing tonight. The Atlanta Thrashers come to south Florida, fresh off of an OT win over the Buffalo Sabres that ended their realistic playoff hopes. There is no doubt that the Thrashers would enjoy putting another team out of playoff contention tonight. Atlanta has also won 4 of its last 5.
There really isn't much left to say. Florida knows what it has to do. They know the standings. They know what works and what doesn't. Play their style for 60 minutes, and they have a good chance at winning. Come out slow, play without desperation, play tight and nervous, and the postseason could get out of reach. Simple.
Atlanta's #1 goaltender is on the shelf, so it's Johan Hedberg in net for ATL tonight. It's another chance for the Panthers to keep it's offense going against a backup in net. Craig Anderson will get the start for Florida, hoping to earn a 4th straight win. No local TV tonight, so head to the BAC or your local NHL Center Ice carrying pub. Puck drops at 7:30.