The Florida Panthers are having a hard time finding the back of the net. Playing without their leading scorer for an extended period of time may not help them solve that problem.
Florida will be without Nathan Horton(notes) as it looks to earn a point in its fifth straight home game Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have had two road wins since early December.
Having scored two goals in their previous two games, the Panthers (21-21-9) led the New York Islanders 1-0 in the second period Thursday on Horton’s first goal in four games. Florida, though, went on to drop its second straight, 2-1 in a shootout.
Horton, who is second on Florida with 17 goals and has a team-best 46 points, suffered a fractured tibia Thursday and will miss four to six weeks.
“It was a great hockey game,” said Panthers coach DeBoer, whose team has totaled 16 goals while going 3-0-1 in its last four at BankAtlantic Center. “It’s tough not to win, but it’s better than losing.”
Tomas Vokoun(notes) has been doing his part to help Florida win, posting a 1.90 goals-against average while making 11 straight starts. Vokoun, though, is just 5-4-2 in these contests due to an offense that has averaged 2.6 goals during this stretch.
Steven Reinprecht(notes) is tied for third on the Panthers with 13 goals, but he has not scored in his last nine games. He had two assists in the teams’ last matchup in Florida - a 6-4 Maple Leafs victory on Nov. 27.
Toronto (17-25-10), which snapped a three-game home losing streak to the Panthers with a 3-2 victory on Jan. 5, is trying to close a five-game trip on a positive note after allowing an average of 4.0 goals in its last four.
The Maple Leafs, who are 2-10-1 on the road since Dec. 3, have given up a league-high 180 goals this season. Still, Toronto coach Ron Wilson remains confident in rookie Jonas Gustavsson(notes), who is 2-5-3 with a 3.07 GAA in his last 10 starts.
“He’s played better and the numbers have shown that,” Wilson said following Friday’s practice. “He’s the future of our goaltending as I see it right now and he deserves a chance to show us that he can carry the ball going forward.”
Gustavsson is 2-0-0 with a 3.00 GAA versus Florida.
The Maple Leafs are also looking to play with more discipline after a penalty for too many men on the ice in overtime led to the game-winning goal Thursday in a 3-2 loss to the Lightning.
“We’ve lost our discipline and we’ve taken some bad penalties in the last couple of games,” said Wilson, whose team led Atlanta 2-0 in the first period before giving up the go-ahead goal on the power play Tuesday in a 4-3 loss. “It’s really cost us. If we want to make ourselves know in this race, we’ve got to eliminate that.”
Toronto’s Niklas Hagman(notes), who played for Florida from 2001-05, looks to continue his solid play after scoring twice and adding two assists in his last three games. He had one assist in his previous 11.
Phil Kessel(notes) will try to extend his point streak to eight after assisting on Ian White’s(notes) power-play goal Thursday. Kessel, who has seven assists and eight points during his streak, has five goals in his last five games at Florida.