Season Series: This is the fifth of six season meetings, and the final at PNC Arena. Florida is undefeated against the 'Canes so far this season, including a 2-0 shutout win in the most recent meeting, on March 11.
Big Story: The Panthers, a team enjoying their longest winning streak in four years with five straight victories, will try to continue distancing themselves from the rest of the Southeast on Wednesday at Carolina. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are seven points out of playoff position but have reveled in the spoiler role of late, winning three straight.
Panthers: As other Eastern sides have sputtered to a stall late in the season, Florida has continued to pick up steam. Southeast Division rivals Washington and Winnipeg continue to squander chances, and the Panthers have been more than happy to become the division standard-bearers. After sweeping a four-game homestand from March 11-17 – one that began with a 2-0 shutout of Carolina – Florida traveled to Philadelphia to for a stiff away test. The Flyers were coming off of a streak-snapping, gutsy win over Pittsburgh, and although they mustered 36 shots to Florida’s 13, the Panthers escaped with a 2-1 regulation victory. Stephen Weiss scored a pretty individual goal, while Sean Bergenheim benefited from a fortuitous bounce for the winning goal. Scott Clemmensen saved 35 shots, conceding only when a puck deflected off a defenseman's skate.
"We need everyone contributing, and we have that," coach Kevin Dineen said. "We have guys like Scott (Clemmensen) that are scratching and clawing to get in the lineup, and that showed out there. That's a product of work ethic, and he deserved the chance. He played well. He made a statement there."
Hurricanes: Sitting seven points below the eighth-place Washington with nine games to go, Carolina has likely played itself out of the postseason. But with three wins in a row, the 'Canes are doing their best to play a few other teams into an early summer, as well. The streak started with a home win over St. Louis, then the 'Canes took four points from a weekend road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg. After downing the Wild, 5-3, Carolina handed the Jets just their 11th regulation loss at home. Amid chants of "Jordan is better," Eric Staal scored twice and assisted as Carolina scored twice in third to win, 4-3.
"It's a gutsy effort, back-to-back games coming into a really tough building," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "This is the way our guys have been playing since Christmas. They go, give it everything they got. We had a short bench, had injuries there tonight and everything, but they've been finding a way to pick up points and I'm really proud of the group. Everybody's really stepped up."
Who's Hot: Though he went scoreless against Philadelphia on Tuesday, Tomas Fleischmann entered that game with five points in five games. He also has three goals in four games this season against the 'Canes.
Injury Report: For Florida, Jack Skille is expected to miss the rest of the season for shoulder surgery. Matt Bradley is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. … Andreas Nodl (concussion-like symptoms) is expected miss Wednesday’s game, while Jaroslav Spacek (lower body) is questionable. Joni Pitkanen is expected to be activated from injured reserve after missing two months with a concussion. Jeff Skinner has served his two-game suspension.
Stat Pack: Florida will look to pad its five-point lead in the Southeast over the final 10 games of the season, eight of which are against teams currently out of playoff position. A win in Carolina won't be a given, however, as Sutter's men are looking for their first four-game win streak since Dec. 11-18, 2010.
Puck Drop: For Weiss, the best part of Tuesday's win was that it came without Florida hitting on all cylinders.
"It's all about the results, but at the end of the day, we're going to have to create more and get some more offensive zone time,” Weiss said. “We're playing with fire, absolutely. But we're not going to dwell on it either. Those are the ebbs-and-flows of this League and it's nice to win when you don't have your 'A' stuff."