The struggling Florida Panthers hope to begin digging themselves out from the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Florida has dropped six of its last seven contests after a frustrating 2-1 loss at New Jersey on Saturday, in which it had a 33-21 edge in shots and earned four power-play opportunities, to end the road trip 1-2-0.
First-year Panthers coach Bob Boughner was pleased with the effort Saturday and told reporters, “It’s just a work in progress and we just have to keep getting better every day. If we play this way on a nightly basis, we’ll get our share of points.” Roberto Luongo, who was rested Saturday, is likely to return between the pipes for the Panthers and Dallas is expected to go with backup goalie Kari Lehtonen after Ben Bishop played against Carolina on Monday in a 5-1 setback. The Stars allowed the final four goals of the contest to lose for the third time in five games this month after finishing October with six victories in the last eight outings. Alexander Radulov scored for Dallas on Monday to extend his point streak to eight games, in which he has scored five times and set up six others.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest Plus (Dallas), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE STARS (9-8-0): Defenseman John Klingberg, who leads the team with 18 points, was held off the scoresheet against Carolina and posted a minus-3 rating with three shots on net. Captain Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin each had an assist on Radulov’s power-play goal Monday to push their season totals to 17 points each as Dallas’ league-leading man-advantage unit (31.4 percent overall) improved to 10-for-25 in its last eight contests. Lehtonen, who boasts 297 career wins, is 2-3-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in five games this season (three starts).
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (5-9-2): Florida was reportedly missing three players at practice Monday with captain Derek Mackenzie (undisclosed), along with fellow forwards Jonathan Huberdeau (illness) and Jared McCann (lower-body), on the sidelines. Florida recalled forward Curtis Valk from Springfield of the AHL and Boughner told reporters Huberdeau (team-leading 19 points) is likely to be ready for Tuesday. Vincent Trocheck, who has scored four times in the last five games, is tied with Aleksander Barkov for second on the team with 17 points and fellow forward Evgenii Dadonov has 16.
1. Dallas F Tyler Pitlick returned to the lineup Monday after missing the previous two contests with an upper-body injury.
2. Florida D Mike Matheson, who notched his second assist of the season Saturday, is slated to play his 100th NHL game Tuesday.
3. The road team has won the last five meetings. ... Dallas hosts the Panthers on Jan. 23.
PREDICTION: Stars 5, Panthers 4