Luongo to miss third straight as Panthers cling to playoff hopes

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Florida starter Roberto Luongo will sit again on Thursday when the Panthers take on the Jets in Sunrise, head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed today.

Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage), who suffered a shoulder injury during a wild game against Toronto last week — the same game in which second-stringer Al Montoya hurt his groin — will watch as journeyman Dan Ellis makes his third consecutive start for the Panthers, with ECHL recall Sam Brittain backing up.

It’s a tough blow for the Panthers.

Following a 4-3 shootout win over the Isles on Saturday, the Panthers were just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But since then, Florida hasn’t played — Boston has, however, scoring big wins against Detroit and Ottawa to boost its lead to six points (the Bruins and Panthers are also now even in games played, with 66 each.)

If there is a silver lining for the Panthers, it’s that they still have three more cracks at the Bruins this season, the first of which comes in two weeks time at the BB&T Center (on Saturday, Mar. 21).

From there, the two will face each other two more times: in Boston on Mar. 31, and then back in Florida on Apr. 9.