NHL

Panthers looking to ignite offense vs. Rangers

SUNRISE, Fla. -- When the Florida Panthers play host to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center, there is no question which team is more desperate.

That would be the Panthers (29-24-1), who are currently a couple of points outside playoff position.

The Rangers (42-22-2) are comfortably in playoff position but still want to win, especially due to a recent mini-slump that has seen their once free-wheeling, four-line offense grounded to a halt.

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On Monday night, New York needed overtime before it finally scored. Mika Zibanejad's ninth goal of the season, which came after nearly 64 minutes of action had expired, finally allowed the Rangers to escape Tampa Bay with a 1-0 win over the Lightning.

It was a nice win for New York, which had lost three of its past four games.

But while the Rangers want to win, the Panthers need to win, just to even make the postseason.

Florida interim coach Tom Rowe announced on Monday that he was switching the centers on his second and third lines.

Vincent Trocheck (team-high 22 goals) will now play with speedy Jonathan Marchessault (19 goals) and newly acquired Thomas Vanek.

Center Nick Bjugstad, who has been injured much of this season, will be reunited with Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen on a unit that was successful late last season and into the playoffs.

"We played pretty well in the playoffs," Jokinen told The Miami Herald. "We have to find a way to score more goals 5-on-5. Hopefully, this can help."

Indeed, the Panthers have gone eight periods -- as well as two overtime sessions -- without scoring at even strength.

In fact, Florida has had trouble recently scoring in any fashion, averaging just two goals over the past six games. And during those six games, the Panthers have compiled just three of the available 12 points.

"I'd be lying if I said we weren't frustrated," Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie told The Herald. "If we are going to get in the playoffs, we are going to have to beat the best."

MacKenzie was referencing an upcoming schedule that this week includes elite teams such as the Rangers and also the Minnesota Wild, who will visit the BB&T Center on Friday.

But the Panthers, who are without starting goalie Roberto Luongo (lower-body injury) and are relying on backup James Reimer, will need more offense. They haven't scored more than three goals in a game since Feb. 17.

The Rangers haven't been setting off many scoring sirens lately, either, getting a total of just seven goals in their past five games.

Michael Grabner leads New York with 26 goals, but he has missed the past three games due to a hip injury. Chris Kreider (24 tallies) is the only other Rangers' player with 20-plus goals.

However, the Rangers are fairly deep -- eight of their forwards have more than 10 goals. Zibanejad and rookie Pavel Buchnevich are two more highly-skilled players who likely would already be double-figure goal-scorers had they not missed a combined 50-plus games due to injuries.

Grabner could return against the Rangers, but winger Jesper Fast (shoulder) and defenseman Dan Girardi (ankle) are out. Defenseman Kevin Klein (back) could return to face Florida.

To give the team more depth, the Rangers this week recalled two veteran players from their American Hockey League affiliate: defenseman Steve Kampfer and forward Tanner Glass. Kampfer played 8:40 against Tampa Bay while Glass played 5:17.

"Tanner's been playing hard," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told The New York Post. "He's been playing well. (With Kampfer), it gives us two more players to make some decisions."

The Rangers started backup goalie Antti Raanta on Monday in Tampa Bay. He responded with 38 saves, but the team is expected to go back to Henrik Lundqvist against the Panthers.

New York is 23-8-0 on the road while Florida has won just once in its five home games.

Former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen will officially retire as a member of Florida's organization on Tuesday. He played for the Panthers from 2000 to 2008 and is the franchise's leader in goals (188) and points (419).

In contrast to the Rangers, Florida has just one player with more than 20 goals and just four with more than 10.