Tuesday vs. Ottawa Senators
The Panthers will do battle with the Senators (28-29-13) for the final time this season to start off a three-game homestand. Ottawa will be finishing up a three-game road trip that includes a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before. The Sens took the first two meetings, but the Cats skated to a 4-2 win the last time the teams hooked up in Canada's capital.
Dynamic defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the Senators with 65 points, while Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, and Kyle Turris have all surpassed the twenty-goal mark. Florida will be looking to dent former goalie Craig Anderson or his battery-mate Robin Lehner.
Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes (31-31-9) will be looking to complete a season sweep of Florida when they visit Sunrise on Thursday. Carolina won the first two games in Raleigh, 3-2 in the initial meeting, and then they waxed the Cats by a 5-1 count the last time out. Like the Panthers, the Hurricanes are out a playoff spot, but they could conceivably close the gap with a big winning streak.
Center Eric Staal leads the Canes in scoring with 55 points. Jeff Skinner is the team's leading goal-scorer with 26, while Alexander Semin has produced 41 points in 58 games. The Cats will be shooting at Anton Khudobin, who has already beaten them twice, or veteran Cam Ward.
Saturday vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Panthers will finish up the week with the Montreal Canadiens (39-26-7) on Saturday night, meaning a large crowd should be on hand at the BB&T. This will be final meeting of the campaign between the two clubs. Florida leads the season series two games to one, with the Habs taking a 2-1 decision at the Bell Centre the last time out. The third place Canadiens are still holding down an automatic playoff berth, but have won just five of their last ten games.
Thomas Vanek is Montreal's leading scorer with 25 goals and 33 helpers. Vanek has potted 4 goals in 8 games since coming over in a trade from the New York Islanders on deadline day. Slick defender P.K. Subban has accumulated 50 points so far this season. The Panthers will be taking aim at gold medal winner Carey Price or his able backup Peter Budaj.
So how do you see this week playing out for the Cats? This trio of games should be a lot easier to deal with for the Panthers, who got roughed up on last week's tough west coast swing. Ottawa and Carolina are essentially wrapping up the season as also-rans, like the Cats, and Florida should have no problem getting up for Saturday night's clash with the Habs. Don't forget to vote in the LBC poll.