Roberto Luongo

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save against Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at the Amalie Arena on October 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Goalie nods: Panthers go back to red-hot Reimer

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Florida’s found an ideal situation in goal.

James Reimer, who’s been terrific for the last three months, will make his sixth appearance in the last nine games when the Panthers take on the Blues in St. Louis tonight. The start comes just three days after his last — a stellar 35-save effort in a 4-1 win in Anaheim — and two nights after Roberto Luongo stopped 33 of 35 in a win over the Kings.

So yeah, nice little dynamic at play here.

Luongo, who turns 38 in April, was fatigued down the stretch last year and admitted as much following an opening-round playoff loss to the Isles. That was one of the big reasons Florida brought aboard Reimer, inking him to a fairly lucrative five-year, $17 million deal.

After a bit of a rough start, Reimer has been full value. He turned things around with a solid December (.941 save percentage), and continued that over to the new year. Things have really taken off lately, though, as his stellar play has given head coach Tom Rowe the luxury of resting Luongo, knowing that Reimer will provide stability in goal.

Consider what Reimer’s done over the last three weeks alone:

Jan. 26: Stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Feb. 3: Stopped 22 of 23 shots in a 2-1 win over Anaheim.

Feb. 15: Stopped both shots faced in relief of Luongo in an OT win over San Jose.

Feb. 17: The aforementioned 35-save victory over the Ducks.

Reimer’s only poor outing was on Feb 9. when he was hooked after allowing three goals on 14 shots against L.A.

For the Blues, Jake Allen gets the start.

Elsewhere…

— Just one other game on the slate tonight, as the Ducks take on the Coyotes in Arizona. Mike Smith will go for the ‘Yotes, after making 29 saves in a win over San Jose on Saturday. For Anaheim, no word on a starter yet. John Gibson shut out the Kings last night, so he could be in line for a break — but that said, he’s been outstanding over the last two months, and head coach Randy Carlyle could opt to go right back to him.

Streaking Panthers aim to ‘keep ‘er going’ in St. Louis

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16), from Finland, celebrates with defenseman Jason Demers (55) and defenseman Keith Yandle (3) after scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks during the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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The red-hot Florida Panthers can move back into a playoff spot with a win tonight in St. Louis.

Beat the Blues and they’ll also go a perfect five-for-five on a very tough road trip.

The Panthers, after completing the California sweep Saturday in Los Angeles, fell out of a playoff spot Sunday when the Maple Leafs and Bruins won.

The standings show it’s going to be fascinating stretch drive in the Atlantic Division. At most, four Atlantic teams are going to make the playoffs. That means one of Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Toronto, or Florida will miss.

“We just want to keep ‘er going right now,” said goalie Roberto Luongo, per the Miami Herald. “We have a lot of work to do. … We know we’re in a battle right now and every game is going to be key, going to feel like a do-or-die game for our club. But it should be a fun couple of months here; we should enjoy the ride and take it one game at a time.”

On their trip, the Panthers have been led in scoring by Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck, each with six points. Barkov has four goals, including the game-winner against the Kings.

standinigs

Related: “It looks like a disaster” for the Ottawa Senators

Goalie nods: After replacing Luongo last game, Reimer starts for Panthers

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save against Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at the Amalie Arena on October 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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James Reimer‘s last appearance wasn’t long, but it was significant.

Reimer came on in relief of a cramped-up Roberto Luongo in Wednesday’s OT win over San Jose, and stopped both shots faced to earn the W. Now, he gets a shot at a second straight victory, as he’ll go for Florida when it takes on the Ducks in Anaheim.

As we wrote about earlier, Reimer has really turned his season around. After signing a fairly lucrative five-year, $17 million deal with the Panthers last summer, Reimer had a tough start. He posted a .907 save percentage in October and a .890 in November, and had just one regulation win in his first nine appearances.

Since then he’s been rock solid, especially lately. Reimer has three wins in his last four appearances, posting a .930 save percentage over that span (allowing just five total goals).

For the Ducks, John Gibson gets the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

— In Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky looks to right the ship as the Penguins come to town. Bobrovsky has played well in spurts lately, but has lost six of his last eight starts. For Pittsburgh, Matt Murray‘s in goal.

Cam Ward gets the start for Carolina as the ‘Canes come out of their bye week with a home date against the Avs. Calvin Pickard will start again for Colorado, though head coach Jared Bednar said AHL recall Jeremy Smith will make his second-ever NHL appearance soon.

Injury roundup: Luongo ‘fine’ after cramping up; Marner’s status unknown

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The Florida Panthers lost starting goalie Roberto Luongo late in Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Luongo came out of the game after Sharks forward Joe Pavelski scored the game-tying goal with 38 seconds left in the third period.

Backup James Reimer entered the game in Luongo’s place and he stopped both shots he faced before the Panthers won the game in overtime. Reimer played just 2:16, but still ended up getting credit for the win.

After the game, head coach Tom Rowe said Luongo was dealing with some cramps and that he’d be “fine” going forward. So it sounds like the Panthers dodged a bullet there.

The news seems to be a little tougher for the Maple Leafs and rookie forward Mitch Marner, who exited last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In the second period, Marner tried to separate Boone Jenner from the puck, but he lost an edge and crashed into the boards awkwardly (top). Marner got up right away and skated toward the Leafs bench before heading off to the locker room.

The Leafs ended up losing 5-2 and after the game, head coach Mike Babcock had no update on Marner’s upper-body injury.

Here’s the latest update from the Toronto Sun:

Marner is expected to be evaluated by team doctors on Thursday – an off-day for the team. His status for a pair of weekend games at home to the Senators on Saturday and on the road in Carolina on Sunday isn’t likely to be known until the team returns to practice on Friday.

Obviously the loss of Marner would be huge for the Leafs’ playoff aspirations. Playing most of the season on a line with veterans Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, the 2015 first-round pick has had a sensational start to his NHL career.

His 48 points and 33 assists through 56 games leads the team and is tops among all NHL rookies. Marner leads Toronto and all NHL rookies in both points (48) and assists (33).

Panthers’ present to Jagr: A wild OT win vs. Sharks

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The Florida Panthers twitter feed joked about needing coffee for a rare late game in San Jose against the Sharks, but their eventual 6-5 OT win could leave their fans so excited they’ll struggle to sleep.

(Or … conversely, so spent emotionally that they conk out on their coaches.)

If you want an idea of how thrilling this game was at times, consider this: the latter events of the contest probably topped the five-goal first period.

Consider some of the high points of what happened late in the contest:

  • Jaromir Jagr celebrated his 45th birthday with the 1,900th point of his distinguished, remarkable NHL career. At that point, it seemed like Florida might just put a bow on this game with a 5-3 lead.
  • Joe Pavelski had other ideas. The Sharks captain scored two goals to send this game into overtime, hitting the 20-goal mark in the process. It remains to be seen how injured Roberto Luongo is from the sequence in which Pavelski made it 5-5, but he was at least hurt enough to leave the game with about 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
  • This forced James Reimer into the net, aka the guy who very briefly joined the Sharks (watching Martin Jones during the playoffs, more or less). Reimer ended up making two saves and will probably be credited with a win.

  • The Panthers put together some exciting chances in a brief overtime period, including a thwarted semi-breakaway attempt by Michael Matheson. Eventually, Jonathan Huberdeau continued his red-hot if far-too-late start to the season with the OT winner, thanks to a ludicrous pass by Aleksander Barkov.

Oh yeah, the game also included some brilliant saves and a failed Pavelski penalty shot attempt … and that five-goal first period.

After the Blues really kept the lid on the Red Wings in a low-scoring game at Joe Louis Arena, just about everything happened at the Shark Tank.

San Jose has to be frustrated in its play lately, although grabbing a point here shows that the Sharks won’t just go easily. The Panthers, meanwhile, likely feel as optimistic as they’ve been in some time about a possible charge toward a wild card spot.

“Wild” certainly seemed to be the theme of this one.