Season series -- This is the third game of the season between the divisional rivals and the first of a home-and-home series. Carolina rolled over Florida 7-2 on Oct. 9, while the Panthers shut out the Hurricanes 3-0 on Nov. 4. The teams will meet again Saturday in Carolina.
Big story -- The Hurricanes grabbed their first win on Wednesday since starting the month with two straight victories, while the Panthers currently sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with their win over the Thrashers on Wednesday.
Hurricanes -- After two hard-fought losses and one OT loss last week, the 'Canes started off this week on a better note with a 5-3 victory over the Stars. The 'Canes, who are currently last in the NHL standings, got off to a fast start with three goals by the middle of the first period. Tuomo Ruutu sealed the deal with a pair of goals in the third period, completing his first NHL hat trick. Cam Ward, in his third game back from a lacerated leg, made 24 saves.
"It's been a while," Ruutu said of the win and his hat trick. "Obviously, it's not an everyday thing. At the same time, we played a good team game. I hope it's going to keep happening."
Panthers -- The Panthers seem to be on the upswing after grabbing their third win in four games. They also have points in seven of their last nine. The Cats almost let this latest 4-3 win over the Thrashers slip as Atlanta erased a three-goal deficit to tie things up midway through the third. This is a familiar situation for the Panthers when facing the Thrashers. Florida was edged by Atlanta on Nov. 30 with six seconds left in the third and again fell to the Thrashers on Dec. 5 in a 2-1 shootout loss. But on Wednesday the Cats would prevail on a Michael Frolik wrister with 1:21 left in the game.
"It wasn't textbook or a video that I'm going to do a whole lot of studying of," coach Peter DeBoer said. "But it was a good two points and I think a deserved two points."
Who's hot -- Nathan Horton is riding a four-game points streak with nine points, while Stephen Weiss, also on a four-game points streak, has six points in that stretch. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen has had eight points in his last six games, while Eric Staal had a goal and two assists against the Stars for a three-game points streak.
Injury report -- Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, while Tim Gleason is questionable for Friday with a facial laceration from taking puck to his face against the Capitals last Friday. Forwards Chad LaRose (lower body) and Erik Cole (upper body) and defensemen Joe Corvo (lacerated right leg) are on the injured reserve.
Florida center Gregory Campbell (concussion-like symptoms), who turned 26 on Thursday, could make his return on Friday, while Nick Tarnasky is expected to miss Friday's game with a broken orbital bone. Left wings Kendal McArdle (shoulder), Cory Stillman (knee) and David Booth (concussion) are on the injured reserve.
Stat pack -- The Panthers could use Stillman, a former Hurricane who has 27 points in 25 career games against Carolina.
Puck drop -- "The last time I won was the fourth game of the year so it's a good feeling," Ward said. "Hopefully we can build on something like this."