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.