Preview: Panthers at Wild

BY foxsports • February 12, 2015

Both the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers are making a push for playoff position.

With each looking to extend their respective point streak, the Wild will also try to continue their success over the visiting Panthers on Thursday night.

Minnesota's six-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 overtime loss at Winnipeg on Tuesday, but it's still earned at least a point in eight straight and 10 of 11.

The Wild (26-20-7), one spot out of playoff position in the Western Conference, haven't earned points in nine straight since a club-record 9-0-1 run in 2006-07.

"Looking at the standings, it's really important for us to get every point," forward Zach Parise told the NHL's official website.

Florida (24-17-11), meanwhile, is amid a 3-0-1 stretch after matching a season high for goals in Tuesday's 6-2 win over Anaheim.

The Panthers own the same number of points (59) as the Wild and are also ninth in their conference, sitting four back of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the East.

"Obviously we need as many points as we can to get back in the race," said Florida's Aaron Ekblad, who leads all rookie defensemen with 31 points. "We're right there."

For the Panthers' surge to continue, they must avoid a third straight loss to Minnesota, which got two goals from Jason Zucker during a 4-1 win at Florida on Nov. 24.

The Panthers have four wins in 16 all-time meetings with the Wild and only one in Minnesota. They earned three points in two meetings there before falling 3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center last season.

Florida, however, won't have to worry about Zucker, who is second on the team with 18 goals but will miss three months with a broken clavicle. He joins veteran grinder Ryan Carter, who will sit at least a month with an upper-body injury.

"We're going to have to get some guys more involved, and some guys have to step up now," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It's something that we've already started talking about."

Yeo remains grateful for the presence of Devan Dubnyk, who made 32 saves Tuesday and is 8-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average since being acquired from Arizona on Jan. 14.

"It's a lot of fun," said Dubnyk, who is 3-0-0 with a 1.61 GAA against the Panthers. "I feel really good about my game right now.

"It has been an exciting change for me to come here and play with these guys. We have a really good feeling in here with our group going forward, and that's a lot of fun to be a part of as well."

Dubnyk has had an obvious big hand in Minnesota yielding eight goals and killing all 17 penalties over the last seven contests.

Florida, though, has totaled 15 goals in four games and went 3 for 8 on the power play against the Ducks.

"Obviously the power play was hot," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We were opportunistic. We took advantage of our scoring chances and made the best of it.

"It's a testament of our team playing well."

Minneapolis native Nick Bjugstad scored his team-leading 18th goal and Jonathan Huberdeau added three assists for the Panthers on Tuesday.

"We want to be confident, but we don't want to be too confident," said Huberdeau, who has recorded five his 22 assists in four games.

Mikko Koivu has two assists in each of the last two versus Florida, and 13 points in nine career games against the Panthers.

It's uncertain if Florida's Brandon Pirri will play after he suffered an upper-body injury 17 seconds into Tuesday's contest. He recorded six of his nine goals in eight games prior to Tuesday.


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