These are very important times for the Florida Panthers. Seven teams have a realistic shot of finishing the season in the final four spots of the playoffs. At the time of this writing, the Cats are tied for the seventh spot in the conference, but only four points out of the number four seed (which would give them at least one series of home ice in the playoffs). One cold streak by the Panthers could spell doom for not only their playoff hopes, but the future of the franchise in general. Jacques Martin is under enormous pressure to make the playoffs, especially after he decided to keep Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline and risk getting nothing if he leaves via free agency this offseason. An appearance in the playoffs would go a long way toward helping the franchise regain its respectability in NHL circles, even if the fair weather South Florida sports fans take a while to start paying attention.
Fri., April 3, 7:30 p.m., 2009