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Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers at Ottawa Senators February 23, 2011

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Florida: 25-27-7 (57PTS)
Ottawa: 19-31-9 (47PTS)
Season Series: 0-1-0

Tonight, the Panthers visit about the only team in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference who haven't advanced on them in the last week. The Panthers have not only failed to gain on Buffalo, Atlanta and Carolina, they have been passed by the Maple Leafs and are now only 1 point ahead of the Devils and 4 ahead of the Islanders. The Senators remain at the bottom of the conference, 1 point above the bottom-of-the-league Edmonton Oilers. The Panthers seem to think they still have a shot at the playoffs, though Sports Club Stats has them needing a 15-5-3 record the rest of the way to have even a decent shot at them.

The Panthers lost 3-5 in the teams' only previous meeting of the season October 28 in Ottawa. That game was the tenth for the Senators and was their fourth win. At this point in the season, they've won only 2 of their last 10. That game was the eighth for the Panthers, of which they had won 3. They would also win 4 of their first 10, with the fourth coming Oct 30 against Montreal. The Panthers have won 3 of their last 10.

On Monday, the Panthers were blown out 5-1 by the New York Islanders. Short-time Panther Michael Grabner was held scoreless, but Matt Moulson had a hat trick. The Panthers started out band, and then when Stephen Weiss was thrown out of the game during the first period for elbowing Radek Martinek they got worse. Eventually, they were able to stop the Isles from scoring any more, but Michael Santorelli got the lone goal as the Panthers came up very short. Ottawa, on the other hand, beat the Leafs 1-0 in a shootout victory in Craig Anderson's first start as a Senator.

Radek Dvorak and Dennis Wideman were held out of yesterday's practice owing to minor injuries. A lot of people seemed to take that as proof of a pending trade, but Dvorak definitely took a puck off his foot on the Island Monday and had obvious trouble skating afterwards. There have been no reports of anyone being called up to replace either of them, so expect that they'll both be in the lineup today. Forwards Shawn Matthias and Evgeny Dadonov as well as Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov all remain on injured reserve. Backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen will face former Panthers backup Craig Anderson. The last time Anderson faced Clemmensen, last year when the AValanche visited the Panthers, Clemmensen and the Panthers had the win in the shootout. Anderson, of course, did not finish the game after being taken out by former teammate Keith Ballard.

It will be interesting to see how the Panthers fare tonight. They're the slight favorites to win, but if they can't bounce back from their awful performance on Monday, then we're probably in for a week's worth of losses on the way to the trade deadline. It's been noted that they looked like a team that "was about to get traded" on Monday. Last year's team had no pride and tanked the last portion of the season, but that was last year. This year's team is auditioning for new GM Dale Tallon and the rest of the league. The Panthers are being heavily scouted prior to the deadline, which should set up deals for not only the deadline but for draft time as well.

More from our Ottawa cohorts at Silver Seven

Panthers vs Senators coverage at SBNation.com

TSN Preview here.