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Tkachuk: Panthers 'know what it's going to take' on 2nd playoff run

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Matthew Tkachuk believes this year's Florida Panthers are better equipped to win the Stanley Cup than last year's Cinderella squad that defied the odds to reach the final.

"Last year, I think we were just kind of riding the wave going into it, much like this year," Tkachuk said, per team reporter Jameson Olive. "But going into this, we know what it's going to take to ultimately come out on top."

The Panthers are set to take on the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, which begins Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Florida finished only four points behind the Rangers in the regular-season standings and won the Atlantic Division one year after sneaking into the second wild-card spot on the final day of the 2023 season.

Last year's Panthers erased a 3-1 series deficit to the Boston Bruins in the opening round and then went 8-1 over their next two series before losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Like Tkachuk, captain Aleksander Barkov said his squad has grown since falling short last spring.

"Sometimes when you go all the way to the finals and you're this close and you don't win it, you're just like, 'you're never going to win it,'" he said, according to's Tom Gulitti. "I think after it happened to us last year, every single guy in the room, we just knew we needed to work a little harder, and everyone did. Everyone came to camp better than ever before, and it just carried into the season.

"We knew that we can do it, we're close, and everyone got better. And here we are again, we are really close."

Tkachuk and Barkov have been Florida's top two producers in these playoffs, logging 14 and 13 points, respectively, in 11 games.

The Panthers played the Rangers three times in the regular season, going 2-0-1.

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