Florida Panthers Visit Carolina Hurricanes: Game 73 Preview

March 11, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver (43) checks Carolina Hurricanes center Tuomo Ruutu (15) into the boards during the third period at the BankAtlantic Center. Panthers won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida Panthers try to win their sixth in a row against the suddenly surging Carolina Hurricanes. Game time tonight at 7:00 PM ET, at the RBC Center.

The Panthers visit the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the fifth of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals, and the final match played in Carolina. Florida has gone 4-0-0 against the Canes this season, with Carolina earning two loser points to Florida's eight. The Cats took a 3-1 decision in November, won 3-2 in overtime in December, took a shootout, 3-2 in February, and shut the Canes out last Sunday, 2-0 in Sunrise. Florida is 16-14-5 on the road, the Canes have a 18-13-6 home record.

The Panthers roll into town on their second night of a road back-to-back, having prevented the Philadelphia Flyers from sweeping the season series with a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia last night. Their current five game win streak is the longest such streak since they took seven straight in March of 2008, also have gaining points in six straight and in 11 of their last 14 games, going 9-3-2 since February 23rd. They return home for a two game stand against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday and the New York Islanders on Sunday.

The Hurricanes just concluded a two game roadtrip, outlasting the Minnesota Wild, 5-3 on Saturday and the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 on Sunday. After tonight's game, they will head out for road matchups with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. They are currently riding a three game win streak, their longest of the season.

These teams last met on March 11th in Sunrise, as Jose Theodore stopped all 34 Carolina shots for his third shutout of the season. Tomas Fleischmann (22) scored in the second period, and Marcel Goc (8) added an empty netter to put it out of reach. Cam Ward took the loss despite stopping 31-of-32 Florida shots. Theodore spoke afterwards about the Panthers performance down the stretch,

"The last 25 games, that's what you play for," Theodore said. "It's the most fun of the year and you want to make the best of it. Right now as a team, we're responding well."

Hurricanes @ Panthers 03/11/12 (via NHLVideo)

The Panthers defeated the Philadelpha Flyers, 2-1 in a road tilt last night despite only mustering 13 shots on goal. Ilya Bryzgalov took the loss, allowing both goals. Scott Clemmensen faced armageddon, allowing only a fluke goal off the skate of defenseman Ed Jovanovski in the second, and recording 35 saves. Stephen Weiss (18) opened the scoring in the first, and Sean Bergenheim (17) added the eventual game winner on the power play in the second. Eric Wellwood (4) was credited with the Flyers score. Clemmensen was the surprise starter, as it had been reported that Jose Theodore would get the start in net,

"It's not necessarily a matter of not knowing or being surprised," Clemmensen told NHL.com. "It's more about staying ready and preparing like you're going to play that next game all the time."

For more on that, check out the Broad Street Hockey recap.

The Hurricanes defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3 on Sunday. Jussi Jokinen (11) opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker in the first to get the Canes on top. He was answered by Nik Antropov's 13th marker of the season just four minutes later. Eric Staal (20, 21) reclaimed the lead with a power play goal in the second, but Winnipeg's Antii Miettinen (1, 2) scored twice later in the period to put the Hurricanes down headed to the third. Eric Staal tied it, and Chad LaRose (18) scored the game winner with just over two minutes to play in regulation. Cam Ward stopped 30-of-33 shots for the victory, while Ondrej Pavelec allowed all four goals on 35 shots for the loss. Carolina coach Kirk Muller spoke after the game,

"There is a lot of fight in our group," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We don't know what is going to happen at the end, but we're creeping up."

Hurricanes @ Jets 03/18/12 (via NHLVideo)

Common Thread:

Hurricanes winger Anthony Stewart played parts of four seasons with the Panthers, appearing in 105 games from 2005-06 through 2008-09. He scored four goals and eight assists with a minus-four rating and 38 penalty minutes.

Hurricanes defenseman Bryan Allen played in parts of five seasons for the Cats. He appeared in 284 games, scoring 14 goals and 53 assists with a plus-one and 341 penalty minutes.

Canes defenseman Jaroslav Spacek played in 157 games for the Panthers over three seasons. He scored 15 goals and 39 assists with a plus-18 rating and 89 penalty minutes.

Florida Panthers Milestones:

Games:
Jason Garrison will pass Jesse Belanger into 46th all-time with his 181st game played. Ed Jovanovski will pass David Booth into 18th tonight with his 310th Panther game.


Goals:
Kris Versteeg, Jason Garrison, and Tomas Fleischmann are tied in 48th all-time with 22 each. Dave Gagner is in 47th with 24. Shawn Matthias will move past Mike Van Ryn with his next goal, into 45th all-time with 26. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik. Stephen Weiss will pass Nathan Horton into fourth all-time with his next goal, number 143.

Assists:
Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Ruslan Salei in 42nd all-time with his 46th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will pass Martin Gelinas into 34th all-time with his 55th assist.


Florida Panthers Season Leaders:


Games:
Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 72

Goals:
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - 22
Stephen Weiss - 18
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Assists:
Brian Campbell - 45
Stephen Weiss - 34
Tomas Fleischmann - 30

Points:
Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss - 52
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell - 49

Plus/Minus:
Jason Garrison - plus-9
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Marcel Goc - plus-6

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 8.9
Jason Garrison - 7.6
Brian Campbell - 7.4
Kris Versteeg - 6.2
Tomas Fleischmann - 5.9
Stephen Weiss - 5.7

Panthers Injuries:
Matt Bradley is out for the season with a concussion. Jack Skille is recuperating from shoulder surgery, and we will see him next season. Scottie Upshall should be returning from his sports hernia in the next week.

Panthers Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Wojtek Wolski
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Krys Barch

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Goalie:
After expected to start back-to-backs from last night's Flyers matchup through tonight's tilt, Scott Clemmensen got the nod instead. A well rested Jose Theodore will start in net tonight for the Panthers.

Flyers Injuries:


Carolina Hurricanes Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jaroslav Spacek other-excused 03/19/2012

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Joni Pitkanen knee 11/28/2011

Hurricanes Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose
Drayson Bowman - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Pat Dwyer - Brandon Sutter - Andreas Nodl
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Defensemen:
Bryan Allen - Bobby Sanguinetti
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain

Goalie:
Cam Ward should get the start tonight for the Canes.

Top Corsi Panthers: (last five games)
Mikael Samuelsson - .520
Sean Bergenheim - .512
Marcel Goc - .511
Tomas Kopecky - .487
Dmitry Kulikov - .481

Top Corsi Hurricanes: (last five games)
Jaroslav Spacek - .667
Jeff Skinner - .540
Jamie McBain - .524
Chad LaRose - .523
Drayson Bowman - .515

Standings:

Florida Panthers: 36-23-13, 85 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 11th NHL, on pace for 97 points. Last five games: W-W-W-W-W. Playoff odds: 99.3%

Carolina Hurricanes: 29-29-15, 73 points, fourth Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference, 22nd NHL, on pace for 82 points. Last five games: L-L-W-W-W. Playoff odds: 1.3%

Gametime: 7:00 PM ET

Season Series: 4-0-0

All-time series: 38-37-22

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