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Panthers at Blues Preview: Florida is fighting to stay in the hunt

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The Panthers are, once again, on the outside looking in.

NHL: DEC 11 Panthers at Blues Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers was originally scheduled for tomorrow night, but had to be shifted forward a day to allow for a travel day. The Blues will be playing their make-up game against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

The Blues won last night in dominant fashion against the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 2-0. This was, surprisingly enough (or if you’re a long-term Blues fan, unsuprisingly enough) the first time in franchise history that the Blues have swept the Blackhawks in a season series. The eight points the Blues banked against their rivals to the north have done a world of good in helping the team secure the lead in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Unfortunately, as the Blues continue to play teams out of the playoff picture, so do the Avalanche. The Avs won 4-3 last night against the San Jose Sharks, which ensured that they’re keeping pace with the Blues and remain two points behind.

The Panthers, right now, sit outside of the Eastern Conference playoff bubble at 76 points. They’re three points out of the last wild card slot, and they’re only three points behind third-place Toronto. This is a familiar position for the Panthers; they have been a pretty good team for the past few seasons, but always seem to just miss the playoffs by the tiniest of margins. It’s no surprise that they’re going to come out of the gate tonight - three points isn’t that much ground to make up. They’re a middling 4-4-2 in their last ten games (in contrast, the Blues are 9-1-0) but a team’s record doesn’t necessarily determine if they win or lose one game.

Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are the two offensive stars to watch, and if it teams won based only on firepower, the Blues would be solidly in a playoff spot. The have a +2 goal differential in spite of their big free-agent signing from the summer, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s far underperformed this year, going 23-19-6 with a 3.23 GAA. He’s gotten better as of late but his rocky start this season may’ve cost his team a playoff spot. Backup Chris Driedger was in net for the Panthers’ 4-1 win over Montreal on Saturday, so the Blues could potentially be facing him tonight.