A TERRIFIC TRIO: Panthers head to Boston with Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov leading the way ... Showdown with Bruins huge if Florida is to make up ground ... Luongo probable for Tuesday
OTTAWA -- The Panthers enter their final road game of the season Tuesday knowing a victory over the Bruins is essential to staying in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.
Florida does so with one of the hottest forward lines in the entire league.
The trio of Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov have given the Panthers an offensive spark necessary in keeping them in the postseason conversation.
"From the first day [Jagr] got here they've played really well with those two kids,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "They aren't just a good line for this team, but a real good line anywhere in the NHL. That's what we've needed every night.''
Since this final five-game trip started last week in Tampa, the trio has six goals and 10 assists.
In Sunday's win over Ottawa, Jagr had a pair of pretty goals off primary assists from Huberdeau.
On Monday, the NHLPA gave its player of the week award to Huberdeau after he recorded a pair of goals with four assists in Florida's four games last week.
"We're all playing well right now and we just have to keep it going,'' Huberdeau said Sunday evening.
"I don't why things are going the way they are other than we just keep working for each other every game. When we're scoring, we seem to win.''
Jagr hasn't been secretive in his admiration for his new linemates.
Although he's older (43) than both Huberdeau (21) and Barkov (19) combined, the three have been inseparable on the ice since general manager Dale Tallon snagged Jagr in a deal with the Devils last month.
Not only have the three played together exclusively during games, but they spend a lot of time during -- and following -- practice working on different parts of their game.
In the postgame locker room, Barkov and Huberdeau are often seen huddling with Jagr talking about ways to improve upon what they did just moments before.
“I've said it before. Nobody really gives these kids credit,'' Jagr said.
"They’re so talented and they’re going to surprise the league in two years. They might just win the Cup the way they play. You know they’re going to get better and better. They don’t even have to do anything and they’re going to get better.''
Said Huberdeau: "He doesn't have to care about us, what we do, but he does. He's been trying to help us. Every day he helps us. This has been great.
The Jagr affect has been a positive one for the Panthers. Florida has won nine of the 14 games he's been in the lineup.
Since Jagr's arrival, Huberdeau and Barkov have nine goals and 26 points between them; Jagr has four goals and eight assists.
"I've really enjoyed the games I've played here,'' Jagr said. "I think I can help the young kids and by the way they play, they can help me. They've surprised me in how talented they are. Even though they're very young, they make plays like they've been in the league 10 years. I had no idea.''
The Panthers are 2-1-1 on this road trip as they head into Boston for the second of three showdowns with the Bruins before the end of the regular season.
Florida beat Boston 2-1 in a shootout on March 21 to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Bruins.
The Panthers likely need to win both of these final games against Boston to have any chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Boston holds a four-point lead over the Panthers for the final playoff spot. Since Florida loses the first tie-breaker (regulation and overtime win total) against the Bruins, the Panthers are realistically five points out of eighth.
"We're four points back but still don't control our own destiny because we need to make up five,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said.
"We play them twice and it's an absolute must to win these games. But this is fun. This is a great time to be playing meaningful hockey.''
-- Gallant said Sunday that he expected goalie Roberto Luongo to return to the lineup Tuesday.
Luongo didn't play in Ottawa because his injured shoulder tightened up after Saturday's overtime loss in Montreal.
"It was a back-to-back and those are tough on any goalie,'' said Ellis, who made 25 saves in Sunday's win.
"This gave him a chance to get a little rest and hopefully come back even stronger. We were able too get the win and he was able to rest and recover -- enjoy a spa day, maybe.''
FLA @ BOS
When, where: 7 p.m.; TD Garden, Boston
TV/Radio: FSFL; WSBR 740
Series: Boston leads 42-33-6
Noteworthy: Florida hasn't won at the Garden since 2011. Boston, after going on a six-game losing streak, has won two straight. The final meeting between the two is April 9 in Sunrise -- the second-to-last game of the regular season.