Florida Panthers' refuse to lose as they push for the playoffs

Florida Panthers practice on Wednesday in Coral Springs. (WPEC)

The Florida Panthers are the hottest team in the NHL after a six game winning streak and a hard fought overtime loss in Tampa Bay last night. The team returned to Coral Springs on Wednesday afternoon as, suddenly, an odds-on favorite to make the playoffs.

"Obviously the dark times of before are behind us," says former first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad. "We've learned from it, and I think we're better for it."

And those dark days felt pitch dark. The Panthers were the second worst team in the NHL's eastern conference back in December, but they've suddenly forgotten how to lose. After a recent 13-and-3 run, they're now just two points back of the final Wild Card spot in the east.

"When you're winning it makes the atmosphere so much better," says forward Jonathan Huberdeau. "In practice we have more smiles and stuff."

"When you're winning and having fun and going on a good streak," adds defenseman Keith Yandle. "It's always fun to come to the rink."

One of the key differences between the slow start to the season and all of the success the Panthers are having in the second half is their defense, led by former first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad.

"It's a quiet confidence," says Ekblad. "We're not out there pretending we're the best team in the league, we still realize there's a lot of work ahead of us. We're right there, we're in the hunt. We're not hoping for anyone else to lose, it's all on us."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off