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Hurricanes vs. Panthers: Game Preview 2-7-14

It's home-and-home, back-to-back, Cats and Habs as the Canes wrap up their pre-Olympic schedule this weekend.

Tuomo Ruutu will be playing in his 600th NHL game.
Tuomo Ruutu will be playing in his 600th NHL game.
Jamie Kellner

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
February 7, 2014 - 7:00 pm ET
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: Litter Box Cats (twitter @LitterBoxCats)

Hurricanes Record: 25-21-9 (59 pts.)
Panthers Record: 22-28-7 (51 pts.)

On Sunday the NHL goes on hiatus for two weeks as the league breaks to send its best and brightest to Sochi. Between now and then the Hurricanes will work in two games starting with tonight's game against the Florida Panthers and wrapping up tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canes and Panthers have met once so far this season, a 3-2 win here in Raleigh on January 18th. They'll play once more in Florida in March. The Canes are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Jets on Tuesday night. The Panthers hosted the Red Wings last night in Sunrise and came away on the losing end of a 3-1 final, so the Canes will be catching them on the back end of a back-to-back tonight.

The Panthers likely won't practice before tonight's game. Here's how they lined up against the Red Wings:

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Jesse Winchester - Shawn Matthias - Scott Gomez

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson
Mike Weaver
- Dmitry Kulikov

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Thomas was in net for last night's loss so the Canes could see Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen is 3-6-0 with a 3.16 GAA in eleven career games; Thomas is 10-11-1 with a 2.70 GAA and one shutout.

Forwards Brad Boyes (15g, 11a) and Scottie Upshall (10g, 16a) lead the Panthers with 26 points each. Upshall scored the lone goal for the Panthers in last night's game. The Panthers are getting good production from their blue line with Bryan Campbell and Tom Gilbert next in points with 25 each.

The Panthers have the dubious honor of having the 30th ranked power play in the NHL, converting on just 9.1% of their man advantage opportunities. They are five full percentage points below the next lowest group which are all tied around 14%, including the Canucks, Sabres, Kings, and yes, the Hurricanes.

After last night's game results the Canes enter tonight 6th in the Metro division, 12th in the Eastern Conference, five points back of third place and four points out of a wild card spot with only four points available by winning out before the break.

The Canes have a full healthy roster and there have been no noticeable changes in the lineup over the last two days of practice. Much of the focus has been on the power play and generating more shots and developing more hunger around the net (Kirk Muller audio from Wednesday and Thursday).

The Canes are playing in their 14th set of back-to-back games this season. They'll play 20 total, only New Jersey (22) will play more. The Canes are 12-10-4 in those back-to-back games, and went 5-0-0 in the front end of back-to-backs in January.

No starting goaltender has been named but it's expected that Anton Khudobin will get the start, which would be his second against the Panthers (he won his first start in January). Cam Ward is 15-10-2 with a 2.91 GAA in 30 career appearances.

Tuomo Ruutu will play in his 600th NHL game tonight.

Projected line-up:

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Nathan Gerbe - Manny Malhotra - Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu
Radek Dvorak

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - John-Michael Liles
Brett Bellemore - Jay Harrison
Mike Komisarek

Anton Khudobin
Cam Ward
Justin Peters

For your pre-game listening, here's Episode 12 of the Hurricanes Report Podcast.

Check out Storm Surge for live updates of the morning skate and other features at 10:30 am on the Hurricanes webpage.

The Canes will be in their black alternate jerseys tonight. And speaking of jerseys, before the game (tonight and tomorrow), check out the Canes players' Olympic jerseys on display outside Section 108. Bring a book to help the Book Harvest and Feed and Read, and become eligible for cool prizes.

We'll have the open game thread ready to go by 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.