(SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers try to bolster their playoff chances on Thursday night when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Panthers are five points behind the Ottawa Senators for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They have played one more game than the Sens, who host the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Florida recently picked up key home wins over the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins, but opened a five-game road trip on Tuesday with a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Pirri and Jonathan Huberdeau tallied for the Panthers and Roberto Luongo made 21 saves.
"Bottom line, I just need to be better," Luongo said.
The Panthers were without forward Nick Bjugstad, who leads the club with 24 goals, on Tuesday due to a lower-body injury and he is questionable for tonight.
The Maple Leafs aim to avoid a seventh straight loss in regulation tonight and were bested last time out 2-1 on Monday by the Minnesota Wild. Jake Gardiner had the goal in defeat and Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves.
It marked the fourth time over Toronto's losing streak that it scored just a single goal.
"We battled really hard tonight," said Bernier. "I thought our structure was able to keep them from generating any speed through the zone and it worked for the most part."
Toronto plays the second contest of a four-game homestand having won just six times over its past 36 games. With an eye to the future, forward Casey Bailey is expected to make his NHL debut with the Leafs tonight.
Bailey signed an entry-level contract with Toronto on Saturday after the undrafted 23-year-old led the Penn State Nittany Lions with 22 goals and 40 points this season. He also was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.
The Maple Leafs snapped a four-game slide to the Panthers on March 3 with a 3-2 win at Florida. That contest was a notable one due to both Luongo and Al Montoya suffering injuries in the contest for Florida, leading to goaltending coach Rob Tallas put on a uniform and taking a seat on the bench.
Luongo started and exited with a shoulder injury, but later returned to the contest after Montoya sustained a groin injury that still has him sidelined.
Luongo is 17-7-0 with a 2.31 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 28 games versus the Leafs. He expects to start tonight.
Bernier made 40 saves in the win over the Panthers, moving to 2-2-0 versus them with a 2.58 GAA and .929 save percentage in five games (4 starts).
The Panthers have won four of their past six in Toronto.