The Florida Panthers enter with just one victory in their last nine games and losers of five in a row.
After the club reeled off five straight wins on the road, I don’t think anyone expected them to stumble to a 1-7-1 record afterwards.
It’s not going to get any easier this week. The Cats host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night before three tough road games versus Metropolitan Division foes in Columbus, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh.
The Panthers absolutely cannot afford to lose this next game to Toronto. The Buds, currently holding down the last playoff spot in the east, already have a seven-point lead in the standings, so another Panther loss would leave them nine back with only 14 games left to make up what would be an enormous deficit.
Florida will be without defenseman Aaron Ekblad and rookie forward Denis Malgin, who were both concussed in Saturday night’s loss to Tampa Bay.
With Ekblad out of the lineup, the Cats have summoned MacKenzie Weegar from Springfield. In 51 games with the Thunderbirds, Weegar has scored a career-high 12 goals and 29 points to go along with a +7 rating. It is the 23-year-old’s first NHL call-up. Weegar was a seventh round draft choice in 2013.