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ATLANTIC ROUGH ON PANTHERS: Florida Searches for First Division Win v. Sens on Tuesday

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers enter the heart of their divisional schedule this month with nine of the next 13 games coming within the Atlantic Division starting with Tuesday's home game against the Senators.

Florida, to be kind, has struggled in its new division as the Panthers are the only team in the NHL to not win a divisional game this season.

The Panthers go into Tuesday's game with a 0-5-1 record in the Atlantic.

"I don't spend a lot of time looking at those things because it becomes frustrating,'' coach Peter Horachek said after Monday's morning practice. "You can't look at it as a daunting task.''

Although the Panthers have played 27 games this season, only six have come against fellow teams in the new division.

Florida and Tampa Bay were taken from the old Southeast Division and put into the Atlantic this season.

The Panthers were members of the Atlantic Division from their expansion season through 1997-98. The Panthers began the 1998-99 season in the Southeast Division and stayed there until this year.

Florida's previous Atlantic Division win came on April 9, 1998. The Panthers' 3-2 win over the Flyers was their final victory at Miami Arena.

"How we play in the division will help determine where we're going to be,'' Tomas Fleischmann said. "This is going to be an important stretch for us. We have to really push it. It's been strange because we haven't played too many divisional team. But we need points and it doesn't matter who it comes against.''

-- Jesse Winchester spent four seasons playing for his hometown Ottawa Senators and had dozens of fans and family members at Florida's game at Ottawa on Nov. 9.

Winchester didn't play in that game, however, as he was starting a three-game suspension.

On Tuesday, Winchester will get a chance to go against his former team for the first time.

"I spent a lot of good years with them and know them pretty well,'' said Winchester, whose four goals this season are the most he's scored since tallying four for the Sens in 2010-11.

"I'm excited to get on the ice and compete against them. I wanted to play before, but my plans fell through.''

-- Tomas Kopecky went through an entire practice Monday for the first time since injuring his elbow Nov. 21 at Edmonton. Kopecky also participated in Tuesday's morning skate but will not play.

TUESDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS

When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Ottawa leads 45-28-3

The game: Ottawa, which has lost two straight, won the first meeting 3-2 on Nov. 9 in Peter Horachek's first game behind the Panthers bench. Ottawa has won the season series against Florida in each of the past four seasons and in six of the past seven.

 

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