The NHL-worst Florida Panthers continue to stumble, and things aren’t about to get any easier with Ed Jovanovski out again.
A visit to Raleigh isn’t likely to help, either.
The Panthers won’t have their captain available Tuesday night as they open a season-high five-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes, who have dominated this series at home.
After missing 22 games, Jovanovski briefly returned Saturday in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders before re-aggravating a lower-body injury in the second period. The 36-year-old veteran isn’t expected to return anytime soon.
That doesn’t bode well for the Panthers (7-16-6), who have been outscored 26-11 during a season-worst 0-5-1 skid. They evened the score with three goals in under a two-minute stretch early in the third period Saturday but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“I like that we came back and we pushed that hard,” coach Kevin Dineen, whose team has gone 0 for its last 17 on the power play, told the league’s official website. “It made our team very emotional in a positive way. It’s staying with it throughout the game. We have some highs and lows in the game and we’ve got to find a way to balance that out.”
The Panthers had taken six of seven from Carolina (15-11-2) before suffering a home-and-home sweep March 2 and 3. The Hurricanes cruised to a 6-2 victory behind a combined five goals and six assists from Jussi Jokinen, Eric Staal, Riley Nash and Alexander Semin, then won 3-2 on the road the following night.
Carolina has to like its chances of earning another two points considering it’s 22-3-2 in the series at home since 2004. Staal has recorded seven goals and four assists during an eight-game point streak against the Panthers at home.
The Hurricanes dropped to 0-2-1 over their last three games with Monday’s 2-1 shootout loss at the New York Rangers. Staal, who’s notched 15 points over a 10-game stretch overall, opened the scoring with his 14th goal but Carolina went 0 for 3 on the power play.
The Hurricanes, who are 3 for 47 (6.4 percent) on the man advantage over their last 15 contests, also blew a 2-0 lead in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Washington.
“This has happened a couple of times where we come out with a good start and then get off our game plan,” Dan Ellis said following Monday’s 35-save effort. “We’ve got to learn from it. It’s starting to cost us.”
Ellis and Justin Peters continue to fill in for Cam Ward, who hasn’t played since spraining his MCL on March 3. Ellis is 4-1-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average in seven career starts against the Panthers. Peters is 2-1-1 with a 2.23 GAA in four appearances in the series.
The Hurricanes may need to keep an eye on Florida defenseman T.J. Brennan, who was acquired from Buffalo in exchange for a fifth-round pick on Friday. Brennan logged a career-high 24 minutes of ice time and scored in his Panthers debut Saturday.
“That’s the level he’s set in game one,” Dineen said, “and that’s what we’re going to expect until our season ends.”
Scott Clemmensen, who made just 21 saves Saturday, is 2-5-2 with an NHL-high 4.14 GAA. He’s gone 1-5-0 with a 3.42 mark in six career games at Carolina.
Clemmensen allowed all six goals March 2 after replacing the injured Jose Theodore, who remains out with a groin injury.