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Florida
Panthers
35-31-16
Minnesota
Wild
48-26-8

43 SOG
35 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
FLA
MIN
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Panthers-Wild Preview

Thursday, 02.08.2007 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Wild Preview
Florida Panthers vs. Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild just completed a season high-tying five-game road trip with a winning record. Having struggled on home ice of late, the Wild should be happy that the Florida Panthers will bring the NHL's worst road mark to the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.

Minnesota (29-22-4) is 18-5-3 at home, but had lost four straight there before beating Calgary 2-1 in a shootout Jan. 26. The Wild then hit the road, and sandwiched three wins between a pair of losses.

The trip did not end on a positive note, as the Wild blew a 2-0 first-period lead to Dallas and fell 4-2 on Tuesday. The Stars scored two power-play goals as they rallied to prevent Minnesota from extending its season-best road winning streak to four.

"We didn't deserve any points," defenseman Wes Walz said. "But even as bad as we played, we were in the game with a chance to pull a point out of here with one (penalty) kill."

Rookie goaltender Niklas Backstrom, starting in place of the injured Manny Fernandez, gave up a season high in goals Tuesday. Backstrom, though, is 4-0-2 with a 0.92 goals-against average at home this season.

The Panthers (20-24-11) also blew a lead and lost on the road Tuesday. Florida was up 4-2 after two periods at Colorado but allowed the final three goals, including Joe Sakic's score 25 seconds into overtime, after Paul Stastny got the equalizer for the Avalanche on a power play with just 37 seconds left in regulation.

Statsny's goal came on Colorado's seventh power-play opportunity and helped make Florida's Ed Belfour the hard-luck loser. The veteran stopped 36 shots.

"Eddie gave us a chance," said Panthers center Chris Gratton, who had a goal and two assists. "He made the big saves, but you can't expect him to do it when you are a man or two men short."

Florida gave up two power-play goals against the Avs and has allowed at least one in each of its last four games, surrendering six in 25 chances in that span.

Belfour is 4-1-0 with a tie and a 2.41 GAA in six starts against Minnesota, while backup Alex Auld is 4-0-1 with a 1.18 GAA in five starts against the Wild.

Auld, though, was pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots in a 7-0 home loss to Los Angeles on Saturday.

Florida's loss to Colorado dropped it to 6-14-8 away from home. The Panthers have the fewest road wins in the NHL.

The Panthers' Olli Jokinen ended a season-high six-game goal drought Tuesday, but the center has had problems on the road this season. He has six goals and 14 assists in 28 road games, compared to 17 goals and 18 assists in 27 home contests.

Minnesota hopes Brian Rolston, the team leader with 25 goals and 46 points, can return Thursday from a one-game absence due to stomach flu.

The Wild have won four straight meetings with the Panthers and lead the series 4-1-0 with one tie. The teams have not met since Oct. 24, 2003.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 08 '07FLA 2 at MIN 4P. Demitra
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