Panthers clear captain Mitchell, put Montoya on IR

The Florida Panthers could get a key piece back for their playoff push tonight versus Dallas, as captain Willie Mitchell has been cleared to play for the first time in over a month.

In goal — which is the team’s biggest area of concern right now — backup Al Montoya (groin) has been placed on injured reserve, while No. 1 Roberto Luongo hopes to return from his upper-body ailment next week (but will miss the club’s next two games at a minimum.)

Mitchell, 37, would go a long way in making life easier for tonight’s starting goalie, Dan Ellis. The veteran rearguard has been a stabilizing force this season — averaging over 22 minutes a night — while helping tutor Calder candidate Aaron Ekblad.

The Panthers head into tonight’s action two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston hosts Calgary this evening.

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