The Panthers are attempting to do something Wednesday night that they haven't done in a very, very long time.
Winning four straight games in the NHL isn't a rarity by any stretch. It's happened 55 times this season alone.
For the Panthers, however, winning more than three straight games has been an extremely difficult task.
The last time Florida won four straight games was on March 8, 2008. The Panthers beat Atlanta 3-2 and would eventually tie the franchise record with seven straight wins. Florida's late season run wasn't enough to make the playoffs and that cost Jacques Martin his coaching gig.
Here's how long ago that was: Not only was Martin the coach and GM of the Panthers at the time, but Olli Jokinen was the team's captain and leading scorer. Stephen Weiss is the only player remaining from that game against the Thrashers – which have since moved to Winnipeg.
“Thanks for that,'' Mike Weaver said. “Thanks for reminding us.''
The Panthers go for their first four-game winning streak in almost four years on Wednesday when the Senators visit BankAtlantic Center.
“We're just going to try and keep playing the way we've been playing,'' Weiss said. “It's nice to be playing big games at this time of the year.''
Although the Panthers are definitely preaching the “one game at a time” cliche as they make a run at the postseason, there's little doubt the team needs a sustained winning streak to hold off Washington and Winnipeg in the Southeast Division. Florida goes into Wednesday's game with a four point lead on the Capitals and a seven point cushion on the Jets.
Of course, nothing comes easy for the Panthers.
Florida has lost eight straight to the Senators since beating them last in 2010. The Panthers haven't topped Ottawa in Sunrise since 2009.
“We have gone through some tough times here and I think we have learned from that and have become stronger,'' Weaver said. “Guys are starting to remember how we did things at the beginning of the season and that's why we had success. This is such a long season and there's still a lot of games left. A lot of things can still happen.''
This seems to be the perfect time for the Panthers to go on a nice winning streak. Ottawa comes to town after playing in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night with Washington here on Friday. Florida kicks off a four-game homestand Wednesday where the Panthers have played well of late. Florida's 35 points at home are ranked 12th in the league.
“It's amazing how a few days things can play out,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “We've played well the past week and have been rewarded. But it can reverse itself. We have a big game coming up against Ottawa. It's a heck of a big game for us.''
() Weaver and Erik Gudbranson both got buzz cuts Monday night in the parking lot of the Duffy's sports bar in Plantation. The event benefited the St. Baldrick's Foundation to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Gudbranson and Weaver raised over $2,600 in donations; the Panthers donated another $5,000 to the cause.
Gudbranson said signing up for the event was a no-brainer. His younger brother Dennis battled leukemia as a child but is now healthy and playing junior hockey for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“It's the best haircut I've had,'' Gudbranson said. “This was a fun thing to do. It's for the little kids who are going through tough times and battling through this. We're going to raise a lot of money, but the biggest thing is bringing some smiles to those young faces. This gives them a glimmer of hope and that's huge. Moral support is everything sometimes.''
() Dineen said defenseman Jason Garrison will miss the next seven to 10 days after suffering what is thought to be an ankle/foot injury on Saturday against New Jersey. “That's a big hole in our lineup,'' Dineen said. At one point during that game, Florida was down to just three defensemen.
Weaver had his skate blown out after blocking a shot from Ilya Kovalchuk that was so hard, the rivets had to be replaced. While Weaver was in the locker room, Gudbranson came in after Steve Bernier's skate sliced Gudbrason's laces down the center of his boot. Then Garrison hobbled in.
“We were going to have to play Versteeg on defense,'' Weaver joked. Florida did actually use winger Mikael Samuelsson on defense for a time.
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: No local TV/WQAM-560
The series: Ottawa leads 41-26-3
The game: After winning three of four against the Senators in 2008-09, the Panthers have struggled against Ottawa. Florida has not only lost eight straight against Ottawa, but have won just five of 22 against the Senators. Ottawa played in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.