PANTHERS (7-16-6) at HURRICANES (15-11-2)
TV: FS-F, FS-CR
Last 10: Florida 1-7-2; Carolina 6-3-1
Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season between these Southeast Division rivals. The Panthers won 5-1 on opening night, but the Hurricanes have taken the two matchups since. Florida rookie Jonathan Huberdeau leads all scorers with three goals and five points, while Carolina is paced by Alexander Semin's four points.
Big story: Twelve points separate these teams that reside at opposite ends of the division. Carolina has the same number of points as Winnipeg, but has one fewer loss and holds down first place via the tiebreaker.
Panthers: This is the start of a five-game road trip for Florida, which enters on an 0-5-1 skid. The Panthers dug a three-goal hole Saturday at home against the Islanders, then provided the fans at BB&T Center with a rare thrill when TJ Brennan, Marcel Goc and Mike Santorelli scored in a span of 1:43 in the third period to pull them even. But consistent with the season-long theme of not being able to catch a break, the Panthers allowed the deciding goal six minutes after Santorelli scored and fell by a 4-3 final.
"We had a lot of jump in the third, which is great, and it was great to see this team come out in the third and never say die," said Brennan, who scored in his Florida debut after being acquired from Buffalo. "Not getting a point or two is tough, but a lot of character in here."
Hurricanes: Since taking a two-goal lead into the first intermission against Washington on March 14, it's been a struggle for Carolina. The Hurricanes went on to lose that game and the next two, scoring just two more goals over 165 minutes. They did manage a point Monday night against the Rangers in New York, as Dan Ellis was spectacular in making 35 saves before getting victimized twice in the shootout. Eric Staal's goal late in the first was all the Hurricanes' offense in a 2-1 defeat.
"I thought our game was good tonight," coach Kirk Muller said. "We knew coming in to play New York that it was going to be two teams battling for big points. We came out really strong in the first, got away from our game in the second, but got into it with a nice tight third period. When you walk in here and get a point in New York, it was a good effort here tonight."
Who's hot: Staal has two goals and four assists during a five-game points streak for the Hurricanes. He's been held without a point in only six games this season. Semin has two goals and five assists during his own five-game points streak. Over his past 12 games, Semin has compiled five goals and 14 assists.
Injury report: Florida forward George Parros (upper body) is day-to-day, while goalie Jose Theodore (groin), defensemen Michael Caruso (wrist), Mike Weaver (lower body) and Dmitry Kulikov (wrist) and forwards Scottie Upshall (lower body), Stephen Weiss (wrist) and Kris Versteeg (knee) are on injured reserve. … Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo missed Monday's game with a lower-body injury. Forward Tuomo Ruutu is getting closer to returning from a hip injury. Goalie Cam Ward (knee) and forward Chad LaRose (concussion) are also sidelined.