|Leafs look to extend Panthers' skid|
The Florida Panthers have lost seven consecutive games, and their next opponent brings little cause for optimism that the streak will end.
On Friday night, the Panthers will host the Toronto Maple Leafs, who on Thursday knocked off the best team in the NHL with an impressive 4-2 road win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Panthers, who are 0-5-2 during their skid, have yet to win a game in 2019. They just completed a five-game road trip during which they were outscored 23-9 while picking up just one of 10 available points.
"It's disappointing," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after his team's most recent loss, a 5-1 road defeat to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. "We all know what we're going through here."
What's going on is Florida's longest losing streak in five years.
It's likely the Panthers will start goalie Roberto Luongo on Friday. Backup James Reimer started against Montreal on Tuesday, but only after Luongo disclosed he wasn't feeling well, according to published reports.
While the Panthers have one of the five-lowest point totals in the NHL, the Leafs own the second-best point total in the Eastern Conference, 60, trailing only Tampa Bay (74).
Toronto had entered Thursday in a bit of a slump of its own, losing five of its previous seven games. In fact, Leafs fans had taken to booing Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, who has made some crucial mistakes of late.
"We (players) expect a lot out of each other, and the fans are the same way," Gardiner said earlier this week. "They expect us to win. They expect us to play well.
"As a team, I don't think we're doing well. (Fans) hit a boiling point, and we (players) do the same thing in the (locker room). If we're not playing well, we get frustrated."
That frustration ended on Thursday as the Leafs got goals from Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Mitchell Marner and Zach Hyman. Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen made 36 saves in his second start after missing eight games due to a groin ailment.
Hyman got his wish after talking about the urgency he wanted to see from his team.
"No one comes to the rink and says, 'I'm not going to work today,'" Hyman said. "But sometimes you have to dig in a little bit harder. When you are desperate, you work. We have to find that desperation every night. We have to bring it every night."
The Panthers could bring in an NHL newcomer for the Friday matchup after calling up defenseman Josh Brown from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Brown, a rugged 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, replaces defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who was placed on injured reserve with a possible concussion.
Weegar was injured Tuesday when checked into the boards by Montreal's Paul Byron, who was suspended three games by the NHL.
The Panthers are still without 2017 All-Star center Vincent Trocheck, who scored a combined 54 goals the past two seasons. Trocheck, who had a fractured right ankle, has returned to practice, but he is not likely to return to action before Florida returns from the All-Star break on Feb. 1.
--Field Level Media