February 25, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Mikael Samuelsson (26) takes a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC center. The Panthers defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE
The Panthers are hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division, but just barely. They need to take advantage of their easy opponents over the remainder of the season, starting tonight with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Florida Panthers are in the midst of the fiercest, closest division race in the NHL this season. The Southeast Division hasn't overall been that strong -- they have the weakest first-place club of out of every division in the NHL -- but that hasn't prevented this race for being hotly contested. The Panthers and Jets are currently tied with 68 points for the division lead, while the Capitals are sitting just outside the playoff picture at one point behind.
With only 20 games left in the season, this race is going to come down to the wire. Every point in the standings matters right now, so the Panthers need to take full advantage of today's match-up against the Montreal Candiens. The Canadiens are currently have the worst record in the Eastern Conference (third-worst in NHL), and they have lost three games in a row. Considering this game is at home, this is simply a must-win game for the Panthers. They need to take full advantage and rack up all the easy points they can.
The Panthers narrowly won their game last night against the team with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite having a worse record than the Hurricanes, though, the Canadiens are arguably a better team -- they have a better goal differential, and their puck control is roughly similar. Hopefully the Panthers are able to put on a better showing today, or else they may find themselves dropping down in the standings.
For more on the Panthers, check out SB Nation's blog on the Cats, Litter Box Cats.