Hurricanes-Panthers Preview

A playoff berth appears unlikely for the Carolina Hurricanes,

who have traded away several veterans in the last month.

That hasn’t stopped them from playing like they belong in the

postseason, and they’ll look for an eighth straight victory as they

visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Streaks have been a big part of Carolina’s season, with the

team’s current position in 14th place in the Eastern Conference

largely the result of a 14-game losing streak early in the

season.

Despite the absence of injured goalie Cam Ward and recent

departures of key contributors Matt Cullen, Scott Walker and Joe

Corvo in the last several weeks, the Hurricanes (26-30-7) have won

11 of 13.

They’ve scored four or more goals in each of their last five

contests, taking a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes of a 4-1 win

over Ottawa on Thursday night. Carolina had newcomers Alexandre

Picard and Brian Pothier and minor-league callups Jay Harrison and

Zach Boychuk in the lineup, with Boychuk notching two assists.

“It’s a good sign that whoever we’re putting in there, we’re

working hard for each other,” veteran forward Rod Brind’Amour said.

“That’s the spirited thing about this group is we are playing for

the guy beside each other and the fans that are supporting us.”

The Hurricanes are still seven points out of a playoff spot with

several teams in their way, but the fact the postseason is even a

remote possibility is a surprise.

Goaltending has been a big reason why, with a youngster and a

veteran performing well in place of Ward. While rookie Justin

Peters has won his first three NHL starts with a 1.34 goals-against

average, Manny Legace stopped 25 shots against the Senators to

improve to 4-0-0 with a 1.99 GAA since returning from an eye

ailment last month.

“The guys in front of him really want to play for him,” coach

Paul Maurice said of the 37-year-old Legace, who is 3-1-0 with

three ties and a 1.46 GAA in his career against the Panthers. He

made 19 saves in a 4-1 home win over Florida on Feb. 9.

“It’s good to have a veteran guy who shows that he really loves

the game,” Maurice added. “He’s been a good goaltender his whole

life.”

The Panthers (25-28-10) certainly have a good goaltender in

Tomas Vokoun, but he has gotten little backing from an offense that

had scored two or fewer goals in 14 straight games before

Wednesday.

Vokoun finally got some help in a 7-4 win over Philadelphia as

Florida snapped a seven-game losing streak. The Panthers got four

points from David Booth, who has two goals and four assists in two

games since the Olympic break.

“Hopefully we got off the schneid here and we consistently give

Voky some goal support,” said defenseman Bryan McCabe, who also had

four points. “God knows he’s been unbelievable for us this whole

season, it’s about time we give him some goal support.”

The home team has won all five games between the Panthers and

Hurricanes this season, and Florida will try to earn a 3-3-0 split

of the season series.

Carolina can leapfrog the Panthers in the standings with a

regulation win.