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Florida Panthers face biggest road stretch in franchise history

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For the Florida Panthers, it doesn't get any more critical than the next six days.

Over that span, the franchise which hasn't been to the National Hockey League playoffs since the 1999-2000 season travels to Montreal, Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit for arguably the most important four-pack of action away from Sunrise -- ever.

Considering what's at stake and the present Eastern Conference standings, it's not being overly dramatic to state that Florida needs to put forth its best collective effort in this upcoming road challenge.

The Panthers lead Washington by only three points as of Monday afternoon, and with Buffalo charging into the Eastern Conference race, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that not winning the Southeast Division could prove very damaging for the 'Cats.

Jose Theodore will need to keep his brilliance going between the pipes, while the Florida offense must shift into the highest of gears and light it up at the other end of the ice.

Not reaching the Stanley Cup post-season tournament after being in first place in the division for most of this season would be an emotional bombshell that would be difficult for both fans and the organization to overcome.

But before sounding the alarm and chastising the league's schedule-makers for putting the Panthers in yet another tough position, it must be remembered that this team has been in situations such as the current one before and risen to the occasion in a big-time way.

Florida is a resilient and crafty club, and to a man the players know what it takes to win as the current Southeast kingpins.

They have struggled on homestands earlier this season only to bounce back with a vengeance and win road games against top teams in the league.

After suffering shootout losses to Edmonton and the New York Islanders this past Friday and Sunday, it's time to bounce back again.

Collecting points will be key in these next four games, and as the Panthers head home to play the fading Winnipeg Jets one week from tomorrow (Tuesday), they will have a much better handle on exactly what they need to do to end their playoff drought.

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