Playoff-hopeful Panthers aim for season sweep of Habs

If the Florida Panthers are going to clinch their first playoff berth since 2000, they are going to have to turn things around on the road.

The Panthers kick off a four-game swing this evening looking for their first season series sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in club history.

Florida has dropped three in a row following a five-game winning streak, but has picked up a point in two straight thanks to consecutive shootout losses. The most recent setback came on Sunday night, a 3-2 defeat to the visiting Islanders.

Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and an assist in regulation and Stephen Weiss added his 19th goal of the season, but all three Panther skaters came up empty in the shootout. Jose Theodore was beaten in the first round of tiebreaker after making 35 stops through overtime.

"We didn't have jump tonight," Weiss said. "When you don't have jump this time of year, something's missing. We have to score goals. We're not scoring enough goals, so whatever the formula is for scoring more goals, we need to find it."

The Panthers fell to 5-10 in shootouts this season and lead the Capitals by only three points for first place in the Southeast Division. Florida does have a game in hand and Washington is hosting Buffalo this evening.

Though they have put together a solid 20-9-10 record at home, the Panthers have gone just 16-15-5 on the road, including a 1-3-1 mark in their last five games on enemy ice. They'll look to reverse that trend this evening with their fourth victory in as many games this season versus the Canadiens.

Florida, which won its lone trip to Montreal this season back on Oct. 24, has still lost five of its past seven at the Bell Centre and has never swept its season series with the Habs.

Weiss is pacing Florida with a pair of goals and two assists in the three meetings this year and is currently riding a six-game point streak. He has three goals and seven points over that run, which is one shy of his career high.

Fleischmann has scored three goals versus Montreal this season.

The Canadiens have been eliminated from playoff contention as they sit last in the Eastern Conference with 71 points. They have lost four of their past five and were last in action on Saturday, when the Habs dropped a 4-1 decision in Philadelphia.

Peter Budaj got the start over No. 1 Carey Price and allowed all four goals on 33 shots. Tomas Plekanec scored the lone goal for Montreal.

"I think we stopped looking at the standings and just try to prepare for every game," said Budaj. "We have a lot of pride for the sweater, for the team and for the organization."

Yannick Weber sat out the loss with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight. Fellow defenseman Tomas Kaberle has missed the past six contests with an upper-body issue, but returned to practice on Monday and could see action some time this week.