Florida Panthers Hot Streak, Playoff Talks

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The Buffalo Sabres had to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a meltdown loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They are hoping to ring in the new year with a win against their other Florida division rival, the Florida Panthers.  That however, could be a tall order for the Buffalo Sabres.

The Florida Panthers are quietly taking the National Hockey League by storm, rising in the ranks of the Eastern Conference thanks to a recent hot streak.  The Panthers are looking to get the new year started on the right foot, losing in their last game of 2014 to the New York Rangers.

The Florida Panthers won seven of their December games, while earning runner up points in several contests to pull themselves to within three points of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.  While the New York Rangers stand in their way of that eighth spot with the same number of games played, the Panthers are only four points back of the seventh spot as well, with games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Is the recent hot streak the only reason for the climb in the standings, or are the Florida Panthers legitimate contenders for the 2015 NHL Playoffs?

The Florida Panthers are trying to get ahead of the free agency game, and taking care of their own.  They have recently signed Nick Bjugstad to a six year deal.  Bjugstad was set to become a restricted free agent this off season.

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  • Home ice advantage is playing a large part in their rise in the standings.  The Florida Panthers have notched points in eight of their last nine games on home ice, and have only lost twice at home since just before Thanksgiving.  I guess that is good for the four hundred or so people that turn out for a home game.

    The Florida Panthers want to create a winning atmosphere in Sunrise, Florida.  While sandy beaches and nice weather might be nice to attract free agents who are looking for off-ice perks, the team has not had much on-ice success.  2011-2012 has been the only time the team finished first in a regular season divisional race, and outside of their magic Stanley Cup run in 1996, the Panthers only have three other post season appearances, they have failed to get out of the first round in each of those seasons.

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    A better presence in the offensive zone has been the start of the success for the Florida Panthers.  That could give the Buffalo Sabres fits tonight, as the team is still struggling with some injuries and sickness.  If the Panthers pour on too much offensive pressure, they could easily be seeing another offensive outburst that likens to their season high of six goals in a single game.

    The key for Florida’s game tonight will be offensive pressure.  Get the Buffalo Sabres to crack early and take them out of the game will ensure a Panthers victory.  Allowing the Buffalo Sabres to stay in the game could be dangerous – but given the Sabres are back to not being able to compete for sixty minutes, that might not be much of a problem.

    Next: Buffalo Sabres Mini 2014 Year In Review