The Carolina Hurricanes’ six-game road trip and four-game Florida swing will continue Thursday night in Sunrise, as the Canes take to the ice to battle the Florida Panthers with the Central Division lead on the line.
The Canes and Panthers both sit at 65 points, three points clear of Tampa Bay in third, with Carolina holding two games in hand. The two teams will start a two-game stretch against each other Thursday, the final two games between them this year.
For the Canes, Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 26 saves in Carolina’s 4-1 win over Tampa Bay Tuesday, will be back in net for the second game in a row, as Petr Mrazek deals with a lower-body issue.
Also on the injury front, defenseman Brady Skjei will miss his first game of the season in concussion protocol. Joakim Ryan will slot in for Skjei, making his Hurricanes debut Thursday night. Teuvo Teravainen, who has been skating some with the team, will still be unavailable, as will Brock McGinn.
Here’s how Carolina will lineup Thursday in Sunrise for the first of a very important two-game stint against the Panthers:
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Jesper Fast
Nino Niederreiter - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Cedric Paquette - Steven Lorentz - Morgan Geekie
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Joakim Ryan - Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries and Scratches: Brock McGinn (upper body), Brady Skjei (concussion), Petr Mrazek (lower body), Teuvo Teravainen (concussion symptoms, IR)
Taxi Squad: Jake Bean, Max McCormick, Drew Shore
The Panthers are coming off back-to-back home wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they will look to try to create a bit of a buffer between themselves and Carolina this week with the Canes still holding two games in hand.
The Hurricanes have done well against the Panthers so far this season, holding a 5-0-1 mark against Florida (though two of those wins did come in overtime). Former Florida Panther Vincent Trocheck has scored a goal in all six games against his former team this season, while Nedeljkobic has faced the Panthers twice and holds a 2-0-1 record with a shutout.
Goaltender Chris Dreidger is dealing with a lower-body injury for Florida and won’t be available, but veteran netminder Sergei Bobrovsky will be between the pipes.
Here is how the Panthers should hit the ice Thursday night:
Nikita Gusev - Aleksander Barkov - Patric Hornqvist
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Ryan Lomberg
Eetu Luostarinen - Juho Lammikko - Owen Tippett
Gustav Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Markus Nutivaara - Brandon Montour
Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas
Injuries and Scratches: Lucas Wallmark (healthy), Matt Kiersted (healthy), Noah Juulsen (healthy), Anton Stralman (healthy), Chris Driedger (lower body), Mason Marchment (upper body), Carter Verhaeghe (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body)
Taxi Squad: Kevin Connauton, Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt, Philippe Desrosiers