Panthers-Hurricanes Preview

Although they’re tied for first place, the Carolina Hurricanes
have yet to earn a point against any of the other four teams in the
Southeast Division.

Now a little healthier, the Hurricanes have two chances to end
that drought this weekend with a home-and-home series against the
Florida Panthers starting Saturday night in Raleigh.

While 21 points would be no better than third place in any other
division, that’s enough to have Carolina deadlocked with Winnipeg
atop the Southeast.

The Hurricanes (10-8-1) have built that point total by going
10-3-1 against non-division teams but would love to fix their 0-5-0
mark versus Southeast opponents. While they’ve been outscored 21-7
in those five games, they have scored at least three goals in all
but two of their other 14.

After getting shut out in Tuesday’s visit to division cellar
dweller Washington, Carolina bounced back with a 4-1 home victory
over Pittsburgh two days later. The top line of Jiri Tlusty, Eric
Staal and Alexander Semin combined for three goals and five
assists.

“I’m just enjoying my time and building the confidence and
playing with two of the best players in the NHL,” said Tlusty, who
has nine goals in the past 10 games after scoring twice Thursday.
“What can you say? It’s enjoyable every single day, every single
shift out there … and you just go out there and enjoy it. That’s
what hockey is about, right?”

Jeff Skinner scored in his return from a concussion, and
Carolina also got Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain and Tim Brent back from
injuries.

“It was nice getting some healthy bodies back,” coach Kirk
Muller said. “It gave us a chance to go four lines. It gave us a
higher tempo and energy.”

With a more complete team, the Hurricanes enter this
home-and-home set – which ends Sunday in Florida – looking to
avenge a season-opening 5-1 road loss to the Panthers on Jan.
19.

Brian Campbell scored two of Florida’s four goals in the first
period, and Jonathan Huberdeau, the league’s rookie of the month
for February, had three points in his NHL debut.

Huberdeau, though, has gone pointless in the last four games and
the Panthers (6-9-5) have lost three of them. They’ve dropped eight
of 10 overall, with four defeats coming after regulation.

Campbell scored the tying goal with 1:26 left in the third
period Thursday, but the Panthers lost 4-3 to Buffalo in a
shootout.

“It’s frustrating obviously not getting the two points. We need
points,” Campbell said. “We go into the biggest weekend of the
season. It’s Carolina back-to-back, divisional games. We need to
come out with hopefully a couple of wins.”

Florida have won six of seven over the Hurricanes.

Carolina’s Cam Ward was in net for four of those losses and was
pulled after the first period in the first meeting this season.
However, he’s 5-1-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average in his last
seven home games against the Panthers.

Jose Theodore is 6-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA in his last seven games
in this series, but he’s 0-2-2 with a 4.19 GAA in his past five
starts.