Since trouncing the Philadelphia Flyers 7-1 to open the season, the Florida Panthers have been merely average, going 4-4-2 in their last ten games.
The Cats offense, minus Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, is struggling to find the back of the net. Florida was held to a single goal by both Boston and Washington in back-to-back losses this weekend at the BB&T Center. The loss to the Caps was particularly frustrating, as the Cats had plenty of chances to add to a 1-0 lead and come away with two points, but ended up losing the game in overtime.
Florida hits the Golden State for the next three games and needs a solid showing on the road to stay with a pack in a highly-competitive Eastern Conference. Jagr, the club;s leading scorer with ten points is expected back in the lineup.
First up is a Wednesday night tilt with the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. The Ducks, who many pundits picked to win it all this year, are off to horrible start, although they did finally pick up their second win of the season on Sunday, beating Nashville 4-2 to open a three-game homestand. The Cats dominated their expansion brethren last year, sweeping the season-series in straight sets by a 6-2, 6-2 count. Here's hoping some of that magic is left over from 2014-15.
After tussling with the Ducks, the Panthers journey north to face former coach Peter DeBoer and the San Jose Sharks twenty-hours later. The Sharks got off to a hot 3-0 start, but they have dropped five of their last last eight games. San Jose, looking to build on a Sunday road win over the Avalanche in Denver, will host the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. Last year, the Cats beat the Sharks 4-1 at home and took a 3-2 shootout decision at SAP Center in the rematch.
The Panthers will head back south to finish the trip with a Saturday afternoon game against the Los Angeles Kings. In reverse of San Jose, the Kings got off to an 0-3 start, but are currently one of the NHL's hottest team, running off an impressive seven-game winning streak before last night's loss in Chicago. After missing the playoffs last season, La La Land's team is serving notice they could be ready to contend for Lord Stanley's chalice again. The Kings will face the Blues in St. Louis and host the Blue Jackets before they welcome the Cats. The Panthers split with Los Angeles last season, losing 5-2 at Staples Center and winning 3-2 on home ice, thanks to late goal from Brandon Pirri.
Florida's last three-game roadie, which saw the team touch down in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Dallas, ended with the Panthers taking three of six points. It's still early, but staying above the .500 mark and in playoff position is key, so the Cats might need to do a little better on this California outing.