Leafs end short trip against weakened Panthers
Florida will ice roster that includes 10 players recently summoned from AHL
It's imperative the Toronto Maple Leafs string together some victories if they want to move into Stanley Cup playoff position.
The Maple Leafs look to continue their recent road success by winning consecutive games for the first time in two weeks Thursday in a 7:30 p.m. ET start against the Florida Panthers.
Defenceman Dion Phaneuf scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist as Toronto (31-30-10) won for the second time in six games, 3-1 at Carolina on Wednesday.
"They're huge points for our team, and it's a big win," Phaneuf said.
The Maple Leafs, who have not won two in a row since March 2-3, are 10th in the Eastern Conference and four points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot.
If Toronto is to make its first playoff appearance since 2004, they'll need to continue to find ways to win away from home. The Leafs play seven of their final 11 games on the road, where they are 5-0-2 since losing 3-0 at Montreal on Feb. 12.
Though Toronto has won two of three against the Panthers (28-33-9) this season, it has been outscored 6-1 the last two trips to the BankAtlantic Center.
Mikhail Grabovski scored in Toronto's 4-1 loss at Florida on Nov. 10. He also had a goal with an assist in a 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers on Feb. 1.
Phaneuf has just one assist in two games versus Florida in 2010-11, but he's totalled three goals and three assists in the last four overall.
He helped the Maple Leafs break out on the power play Wednesday after they went 1-for-32 over the previous eight contests. Toronto is just 2-for-11 with the man advantage versus Florida this season.
Conversely, five of the Panthers' eight goals against the Maple Leafs this season have come on 12 power-play chances. Florida, however, is 0-for-12 on the power play the last three games, and 2-for-37 while losing eight of 11.
The Panthers are trying to make the best of it with a roster made up of 10 players recently called up from the American Hockey League.
Dmitry Kulikov and Stephen Weiss each scored but Florida could not hold a one-goal lead in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Philadelphia.
"You're not going to play mistake free," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "No one likes that we're not winning but you can't deny they're giving an effort out there. That's all a coach can ask."
Weiss has three goals with three assists in eight games this month, and one with two assists versus Toronto this season.
Though Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun has lost two in a row, he's stopped 71 of 72 shots to win his last two against the Maple Leafs. He made 32 saves in the November win over Toronto.
Backup Scott Clemmensen is 0-1-1 with a 2.91 goals-against average versus Toronto this season.
Toronto rookie James Reimer could be back in net to face Florida for the first time after making 36 saves at Carolina.