When these two teams last met, the Panthers were planning to use that game as a starting point to turn their season around. Turns out, they weren’t kidding.
Since beating the Hurricanes 3-2 on November 24, Florida has posted a 6-2-2 record and could tie Carolina in the standings with a regulation win tonight. For a Hurricanes team that’s been focusing on moving up to catch the Washington Capitals, tonight’s game will see them peek at the rearview mirror for a change.
However, for Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, who’s known Panthers rookie head coach Peter DeBoer since junior hockey, much more than two points are at stake.
“He’d be in that group of three of four people that you’d call the best of friends, and I hope we beat their [butts] right off tonight,” said Maurice. “I can’t imagine what the summer will be like playing golf with him if we do not win the season series.”
The Panthers have been winning games despite dealing with a number of injuries to key offensive players. Nathan Horton and David Booth have both been out for about three weeks, while former Cane Cory Stillman just returned from missing 13 games with a concussion.
Also, second-leading scorer Stephen Weiss is “50/50” after picking up a neck/back injury in the team’s most recent game, a 5-3 loss to Vancouver that ended their franchise-record five-game road winning streak.
Tomas Vokoun is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Panthers. Florida is 6-10-0 when he starts, as opposed to 8-3-3 when co-starter Craig Anderson gets the nod.
On the Canes side, Rod Brind’Amour’s current four-game assist streak has him just one shy of 700 for his career. That would make him only the fourth active player with 400 goals and 700 assists, joining Joe Sakic, Mark Recchi and Mike Modano.
Random notes: Frank Kaberle is back in the lineup tonight .. tonight’s match-up between Carolina and Florida features the second- and third- least penalized teams in the NHL, respectively … By way of his three-assist performance on opening night, Tim Gleason leads the Canes in scoring vs. Florida this season.