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Preview: Ducks, Panthers Close out Season Series

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (30-18-10, 70 pts.) open a two-game homestand vs. the Florida Panthers (25-20-10, 60 pts.) this evening at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). Tonight represents Anaheim's first home game since January 31 against Colorado (5-1 W) after a recently-completed 14-day, six-game road trip. Of Anaheim's 24 remaining regular-season games, 15 will be played at Honda Center and nine on the road. The Ducks' 15 remaining home games are tied for the third-most in the league, behind only Carolina (17) and Los Angeles (16). Tonight's matchup represents just one of three home games this month for the club, which also hosts the Kings on Sunday (6 p.m. PT) and the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, February 22 (7:30 p.m. PT). Anaheim's remaining road schedule is broken down with three games in the Pacific Time Zone, three in the Mountain and three in the Central.

Tonight's contest concludes the two-game season series between the Ducks and Panthers, which opened two weeks ago at BB&T Center, a 2-1 Florida victory. Opening the scoring that night at 9:39 of the first period with his 27th career goal, Hampus Lindholm surpassed Ruslan Salei (26) for sole possession of 10th on the franchise's all-time goals list for defensemen. The Ducks are 13-13-4 all-time against the Panthers, including a 7-7-1 mark at Honda Center.

After their marathon road trip that logged over 8,000 miles from start to finish, the Ducks finally get a chance to skate in front of their home fans for the first time in nearly three weeks. They held a spirited practice yesterday at THE RINKS - Anaheim ICE and a decision on Sami Vatanen's status for the game is expected to be made sometime this morning. He was on the ice yesterday with the team and took rushes with Korbinian Holzer. Despite only earning five of 12 points on the trip (2-3-1), the Ducks still find themselves tied for second place in the Pacific Division with the Edmonton Oilers. Both clubs are four points back of the San Jose Sharks and all three clubs have played 58 games.

The Panthers are at the halfway point of a five-game road trip that began with a 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators last Saturday and a 6-5 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. The Panthers have won four of their last five games, which includes the aforementioned 2-1 triumph over the Ducks on February 3. Florida enters tonight's game just three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and four points behind the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division.

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