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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, December 17th (All times Eastern)
Florida Panthers (12-17-5) at Toronto Maple Leafs (17-15-3), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The suddenly-surging Florida Panthers will take aim at a fourth consecutive victory when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs for Tuesday's clash at Air Canada Centre.
With wins in each of its past three outings, Florida is on its longest winning streak of the season. The club also has earned victories in five of its last six outings, giving the Panthers a 9-8-1 record since firing head coach Kevin Dineen in early November and replacing him with interim coach Peter Horachek.
Despite the recent surge Florida is still sitting seventh out of eight teams in the Atlantic Division, where it trails sixth-place Ottawa by five points.
All three wins on Florida's current streak have come by one-goal margins. The Panthers earned consecutive home shootout wins over Detroit and Washington before beginning a four-game road trip with Sunday's 2-1 regulation triumph over Montreal.
Scott Clemmensen made 17 saves for a Panthers team that survived a frantic finish to earn the recent win against the Canadiens. Florida entered the third period with a 2-0 lead, but Alex Galchenyuk scored a power-play goal 2:28 into the third period to cut the deficit in half. However, the Panthers were able to hold on the rest of the way to notch their first three-game winning streak since March 28-April 2 of last season.
Jesse Winchester and Nick Bjugstad both scored in the second period for Florida.
"That was a pretty concerted effort to keep the puck out of our end," said Panthers head coach Peter Horachek. "You saw the character there when they're blocking shots. That's when you know your team is doing the right kind of thing."
The close victory improved Florida's road record this season to 5-10-2. The Panthers will continue the swing Thursday in Ottawa before completing the trip the following night in Winnipeg.
Jonathan Huberdeau missed Sunday's game due to a bruised foot and last season's Calder Trophy winner is questionable for the Panthers on Tuesday. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson also could miss tonight's tilt with a lower-body injury suffered in Sunday's win.
Florida will try to halt a three-game losing streak in the series against Toronto. The Maple Leafs have claimed three of the last five encounters at Air Canada Centre.
Although Toronto posted an impressive 7-3 win in Saturday's home game against Chicago, the Maple Leafs lost for the fourth time in five tilts with Monday's 3-1 setback in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal with 6:03 to play for the Penguins, who beat Toronto despite playing without Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang.
Morgan Rielly scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan Bernier allowed two goals on 30 shots in the loss.
"I don't think we played well in the first period, but we seemed to get our skating together in the second period," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle. "But in the third period we made some mistakes and it cost us the game."
Toronto fell to 6-8-3 on the road after Monday's loss, but the club is kicking off a three-game stay at Air Canada Centre tonight and is 11-7-0 as the host this season. The Leafs will play five of six games on home ice to close out December.
12/17 10:49:51 ET