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Gameday: Hurricanes at Panthers

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Hockey in Florida in April. Yes.

This is the gameday hub, where you can find all the latest news and information related to tonight’s Eastern Conference match-up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers in one handy location. Make this a regular stop throughout the day, as we update with notes, photos and more as puck drop draws near.

After practicing on Wednesday afternoon, the Hurricanes will not hold a morning skate today. We’ll speak with head coach Bill Peters at some point today to get his thoughts ahead of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. puck drop, so check back for more.

Last updated: 12:00 p.m.



CANES LINEUP NOTES
12:00 p.m.

Head coach Bill Peters said that Anton Khudobin will start tonight against the Panthers. Khudobin is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and one shutout in three career games against Florida, something Peters said factored in to the decision to start No. 31. Peters added that the tentative plan is to then start Cam Ward on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia.

On defense, expect to see Michal Jordan draw back into the lineup with Brett Bellemore coming out.

Hainsey-Faulk
Jordan-Murphy
Liles-Biega

Peters said he plans on starting with the forward lines utilized in practice on Wednesday (seen below), but he added that swapping Victor Rask and Jay McClement in their center roles certainly wasn't out of the question.



CANES PROJECTED LINEUP
6:00 a.m.

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Carrying just 12 forwards, the Hurricanes won’t be taking anyone out of the lineup up front, but there may be a bit of a different look. Here’s how the four lines appeared at practice on Wednesday.

Terry-E. Staal-Nestrasil
Gerbe-J. Staal-Lindholm
Malone-Rask-Dwyer
Skinner-McClement-Semin

Based on practice lines, it appears as if Michal Jordan might draw back into the lineup on defense, though Peters said he’s still toying with the pairings.

“Pete will give me a medical update here,” he said. “There were some guys dinged up a little bit postgame against Washington, so we’ll see if they got through the skate today and go from there.”

Liles-Faulk
Jordan-Murphy
Biega-Bellemore

(See above for new pairings.)

Ron Hainsey rotated in on line rushes.

Peters has yet to name a starting goaltender. Cam Ward is 15-12-2 with a 2.78 goals-against average in 32 career appearances against Florida, while Anton Khudobin is a perfect 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and one shutout in three career games versus the Panthers.



CANES NEED REBOUND EFFORT AGAINST FLORIDA
6:00 a.m.

Unlike the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes will not be playing for their postseason lives on Thursday night.

But they do have a statement to make.

The Hurricanes will be looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss to the Capitals, a game in which the team fell behind early and did not have everyone on board.

How the team responds from the lackluster effort in Washington will be telling, according to head coach Bill Peters.

“It’s unbelievably important. It’s going to show whether we have enough character to be a good team moving forward with this group or it’s a group that has to be looked at a little bit more seriously,” he said. “You look at the fact that we’re down early in games and getting outshot badly in the first 10 minutes. That’s something that has to change.”

Peters was satisfied with the results from the Hurricanes’ five-game homestand: six out of a possible 10 points earned against some of the best teams in the league. The team’s road game of late, though, has left something to be desired.

“I thought we competed, for the most part, on our homestand and did a good job there,” he said. “But I look back at our last two road games in Montreal and Washington, and I don’t think our compete level was where it needs to be.”

With six games remaining in the 2014-15 regular season, four of which will be played on the road, Peters wants to see a consistent effort out of his club.

“We’ve got to start on time and play all 18 periods hard,” he said.

Opposite a Hurricanes team with something to prove is a Florida Panthers squad that is clinging to its playoff hopes. With five games remaining – all at home – the Panthers trail the Boston Bruins by six points for the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“They competed very hard [against Boston] and gave up a late goal, which is obviously disappointing for them. They’re playing well and playing hard,” Peters said. “They’re stingy defensively, so we’re going to have to work hard to generate our chances, and when we generate grade-A chances, we’ll have to find a way to finish them.”

The Canes have yet to finish any chance against the Panthers this season, having been shut out in their previous two meetings. Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya combined for a 33-save, 1-0 shutout in Florida on Nov. 26, and former Hurricane Dan Ellis posted a 27-save shutout in a 2-0 win in Raleigh on March 14.

“We’ve got to find a way to score,” Peters said. “It’s the D moving the puck properly and being efficient moving the puck, and it’s the forwards being willing to pay the price. It’s going to be an interesting evening.”

NOTES: Chris Terry has points in three straight games (1g, 2a), and Nathan Gerbe has goals in two straight. Meanwhile, Eric Staal has a team-leading 50 points, including seven (3g, 4a) in his last five games. … Carolina played a penalty-free game against Washington on Tuesday, the fourth time that has happened this season.



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