There was a time not too long ago when a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers was little more than an opportunity for certain segments of hockey fandom (especially those north of the Mason-Dixon Line) to dunk on the “Southleast Division.” A national television broadcast of these teams? Ha! What nonsense.
Funny how times change, isn’t it?
(Well, at least they mostly do, but some things will never change:)
Who’s excited for Panthers vs. Panthers tonight? pic.twitter.com/jekp0AQOUL— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) February 16, 2022
The Hurricanes, as we well know, have been treading water - at best - since the All-Star break ended. Paul Maurice always used to warn about the first game back from a long road trip being a difficult one, and that was the case no matter who the opponent was. A matchup against a fellow Cup contender makes that even more perilous.
But then again, the Panthers have been off for two weeks now, for some reason. So they might be shaking off some rust as well, although both teams are entirely healthy and it will be best-on-best tonight.
The Hurricanes will make one minor change, with Steven Lorentz entering the lineup at the expense of Derek Stepan. Other than that, things will look very similar to how we saw them in Saturday’s frustrating loss to the Wild:
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Seth Jarvis
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin - Tony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Ian Cole - Ethan Bear
Injuries and Scratches: Derek Stepan (healthy), Brendan Smith (healthy)
The Panthers were the league’s hottest team in January, rocketing to the top of the Atlantic Division while dealing with a spate of injuries. Included in that 14-3-1 post-Christmas run was a 4-3 overtime win over Alex Lyon (remember him?) and the Hurricanes at PNC on January 8, their second win over the Canes this season. A win tonight would give the Panthers their first season sweep of the Hurricanes since the 2015-16 season.
The time off after the All-Star break allowed the Panthers to get healthy, and with the exception of Joe Thornton (who has been out but is now on IR to open a roster spot), everyone is back for the Panthers tonight except for Noel Acciari, who was moved off LTIR yesterday but will not play tonight.
Here’s how they’ll line up:
Carter Verhaeghe - Sasha Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Owen Tippett
Mason Marchment - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Gus Forsling - Radko Gudas
Lucas Carlsson - Brandon Montour
Injuries and Scratches: Frank Vatrano (healthy), Noel Acciari (injury recovery), Olli Juolevi (undisclosed), Markus Nutivaara (LTIR lower body), Joe Thornton (IR undisclosed), Maxim Mamin (IR undisclosed), Chase Priskie (IR undisclosed)
Referees: Francois St. Laurent #8, Gord Dwyer #19
Linesmen: Mark Shewchyk #92, Bryan Pancich #94