Despite dropping the last two games in overtime, the Carolina Hurricanes are in the midst of a five-game point streak as they head to Florida to face the Panthers in a Southeast Division matchup. One of those OT losses game at home against Florida Wednesday, when Carolina rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score in the third period before eventually allowing the game-winning goal in the extra session.
That game pitted Carolina No. 1 Cam Ward against Panthers backup Scott Clemmensen, but Friday's game will see the other two goalies in net. Tomas Vokoun will start for Florida and Paul Maurice will call Justin Peters’ number for just the second time in 18 games. Peters got his only win of the season in Sunrise Dec. 15, relieving Ward less that two minutes into the game and holding Florida to one goal in Carolina's come-from-behind, 4-3 win. The game-winning goal came courtesy Vokoun, who turned the puck over directly to Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu for an easy goal to complete Carolina's comeback.
The Hurricanes will again be without two-thirds of their Finnish contingent, as Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen did not make the two-game road trip that started Wednesday in New York City. Zac Dalpe and Brett Carson will again be in the lineup. Fourth-liner Ryan Carter could possibly be held out after being hurt in Wednesday's game against the Rangers, and Jon Matsumoto has been recalled to fill in for him if needed. The team also moved Jiri Tlusty to injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 16.
Here are the possible lines and pairings for tonight's game:
(*Skinner played center last game vs. Florida, so he could perhaps be in the middle again, with Ruutu moving back to wing)
The Panthers sit in 11th in the Eastern Conference with 38 points (18-18-2) in 38 games, one behind 10th place Buffalo (two more games played than Florida), and four behind Carolina, who has one game in hand on them. Montreal currently holds the final playoff spot in the East with 47 points in 41 games.
Carolina is 2-1-1 against Florida so far this season and this is the fifth of six games between the two teams this year. Rookies Jeff Skinner and Dalpe have had success against Florida this year, with Dalpe recording his first career goal against Florida Dec. 15 and Skinner registering four points (one goal, three assists) in the four games. Zach Boychuk also scored in his only game against the Panthers this season. Both of Jay Harrison's two career goals have come against the Panthers.
Michael Frolik is Florida's leading scorer with 26 points (8-18-26) and Stephen Weiss is second and leads the team in goals (13-12-25). Bryan McCabe (19 points) and Dennis Wideman (18) lead the scoring from the blueline. They are 3-1-2 in their last six games, with the only loss coming in their last game Wednesday against Atlanta. It was a controversial defeat because reviews showed McCabe had scored the game-tying goal with 6:22 left, but the play was never reviewed and the "no goal" call on the ice stood.
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by FSC and 99.9 The Fan. Visit Litter Box Cats for a Florida perspective on the game.