SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and they have been for over a month.
The Panthers could look at the NHL standings for three straight days during the holiday break and see themselves just one point out of first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers try to extend their winning streak to six and rise to the top spot in the division when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
"We just have to make sure, when we come back from Christmas, we continue to play the same way," Florida's veteran forward Jaromir Jagr told the Miami Herald. "We're playing a good team game, five guys up and five guys back checking."
The Panthers started their six-game homestand with shootout victories over Vancouver and Ottawa while recording at least 40 shots on goal in each game before the break and face a Columbus team that owns the fewest points in the league.
The Blue Jackets gave up three power-play goals in the second period to lose at Tampa Bay 5-2 on Saturday for their 10th defeat in 13 games (3-7-3).
Columbus captain Nick Foligno (lower body) has missed two straight games and likely will sit out Sunday.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Columbus), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (13-21-3): Columbus allowed five power-play goals in the last two games and is just 2-for-17 with the man advantage the last seven contests — including 0-for-3 on Saturday.
Scott Hartnell scored his team-leading 14th goal against Tampa Bay before taking a five-minute major for charging and getting a game misconduct.
Joonas Korpisalo started in net and was relieved by Curtis McElhinney while No. 1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) is closing in on a return.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (19-12-4): Jagr passed Marcel Dionne for fourth in the NHL's all-time scoring list with his 732nd goal earlier in the week and has four points in four games to take over the team lead with 25.
Jagr's linemate Jonathan Huberdeau, who got off to a slow start, has picked it up in December and boasts six points in the last seven games overall.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad has stepped up with seven points (four goals, three assists) and a plus-10 rating since Thanksgiving — a span of 14 games.
- The Blue Jackets have gained at least a point in 11 of the last 12 meetings (10-1-1) after a 2-1 shootout loss in Columbus on Dec. 4.
- Florida G Roberto Luongo is 8-3-0 with a .931 save percentage during his last 11 contests.
- Columbus C Ryan Johansen registered his team-best 18th assist Saturday, but has not scored a goal in the 11 December games he has played.
The Panthers face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, December 27th at 6:00 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.
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