Somewhat amazingly, the Panthers and Rangers have split their current season series with one victory each heading into this evening's match from Sunrise. So yes, once again, Florida has an opportunity to "win" a series this year for whatever such a feat might be worth at this point (the oft-used "bragging rights" excuse doesn't seem to carry much weight in a 13-32 season, but we're open to suggestions).
New York, winners of three straight and 8-2-1 over the past 11 (including a 6-1 laugher vs the Cats less than a week ago from MSG), is in a very real fight for a playoff position: their 52 points are tied with idle Ottawa (Rags have one more win), good for the seventh spot, but only a click better than ninth-place Winnipeg's 51. Interestingly, the Jets are hosted tonight by the Southeast-leading Washington Capitals - owners of a 52-point record themselves. Throw in the Islanders (53P) at sad-sack Carolina and all sorts of funky movement could well be realized in the Eastern Conference standings - the part that matters, anyway - before 11 p.m.
As for the Panthers, who have scored 4 but allowed 7 goals in two appearances vs the Rangers in 2013, only a pair of games remain on the schedule after the final horn sounds at the conclusion of this evening: Thursday is the home finale (vs playoff-bound Toronto) followed by Saturday's season-closer from Tampa Bay. Enjoy it while it's here, before we all binge out for the year's Big Action: next Monday night during the NHL Draft Lottery (and we'll be chatting it live in an open forum around 7 p.m., so do join us).
Coach Kevin Dineen is expected to see the return of forwards Peter Mueller (17P) and Tomas Kopecky (15G) to the lineup, with Jacob Markstrom being the safe bet in net. The defensive corps remains ravaged by various injuries as Tyson Strachan, Dmitry Kulikov, and Erik Gudbranson all find themselves hobbled in one fashion or another; Colby Robak (above) has been recalled from AHL San Antonio, whose season is over anyway. Henrik Lundqvist - author of the aforementioned 8-2-1 stretch and a 15-8-1 (5 SO) lifetime record vs Florida - has already been confirmed as New York's starter.
For more on the visitors head north to Blueshirt Banter. The LBC Live GameThread powers up around 7ish.