Ducks look for scoring touch against Panthers

The host Florida Panthers and the visiting Anaheim Ducks — two franchises that entered the NHL together in 1993 — will meet on Wednesday night at the BB&T Center.

Anaheim has been much more successful as a franchise, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 as well as taking six division crowns and two conference championships.

The Ducks have been especially good this decade, qualifying for the playoffs six straight years, winning the Pacific Division five of the past six seasons and topping 100 points in each of the five years.

However, the Ducks were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks last season. This season, the Ducks endured a seven-game losing streak, including five defeats in regulation.

They are last in the NHL in scoring, and Ducks coach Randy Carlyle has asked his team to play shut-down defense.

“With the personnel we have in place, we have to win 2-1 or 1-0,” he told The Orange County Register. “It’s as simple as that — and any more offense is a bonus.”

The Ducks (11-10-5) followed that plan on Tuesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have never won the Stanley Cup. They won a conference championship in 1996 — the greatest season in club history even though they came up short in the Stanley Cup Finals — and they earned division titles in 2012 and 2016.

Last season, the Panthers started slowly and then got hot starting on Jan. 30, finishing one point short of a playoff berth.

This season, the Panthers are off to another slow start at 9-9-4. They started a crucial eight-game homestand on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks, and they gave up a tying goal with 1.8 seconds left in regulation. The Blackhawks then won in overtime.

On Monday, the Panthers were facing near-certain defeat, losing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in the final two minutes.

However, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 1:29 left in regulation to tie the score 3-3, and Mike Hoffman scored in overtime to exorcise the demons from the Chicago game.

“With the adversity we faced against Chicago, it effects your mind and mindset,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner admitted. “Thinking we should’ve won (against the Blackhawks) and we didn’t was tough.”

Huberdeau said the Devils win should give the Panthers a new outlook.

“It feels good for our confidence,” he said. “The (Chicago) game hurt us at the end, and we just needed the two points. We need to keep going.”

Florida’s main problem is on defense as they entered the week ranked next-to-last in the league in goals allowed. The Panthers are killing just 75 percent of their power plays — only three teams are worse — and they are without their top goalie, Roberto Luongo, who has missed two straight games due to a lower-body injury.

In addition, center Vincent Trocheck, who was an All-Star center in 2017 and scored 54 goals the past two years, is out with a fractured ankle.

Backup goalie James Reimer, who got Florida’s win on Monday, will likely be in the nets, and the Panthers offense is led by five players who all have between 20 and 23 points: Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Huberdeau, captain Aleksander Barkov and power-play quarterback Keith Yandle.

Hoffman leads the team with 12 goals.

Meanwhile, the Ducks are without their top two defensemen — Cam Fowler (broken jaw) and Hampus Lindholm (lower body).

Offensively, no Ducks player has more than six goals, and players who used to be snipers such as Corey Perry (knee) and Patrick Eaves (back) are on injured reserve and past their primes.

Perry, 33, has gone from 33 goals to 19 to 17 in the past three years, and he will likely miss this entire season.

Eaves, 34, scored 32 goals in 2016-2017 but has played just five games since.