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At the Rink: Avalanche at Panthers

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will play at home Thursday for the first time in 2015 and look to rebound from a disappointing ending to what otherwise was a successful road trip.

The Panthers will face the Colorado Avalanche at BB&T?Center fresh off a six-game road trip on which they went 4-2-0. The trip featured Florida's first three-game winning streak of the season, but ended with an 8-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

To make matters worse, problems with a charter plane caused the Panthers' return home Wednesday to be delayed four hours.

The game against Colorado begins a five-game homestand sandwiched around the 2015 Honda NHL???All-Star Game.

"We feel good,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said after the morning skate. "We had a good loose practice this morning to get ready for tonight. We finished 4-2 on a tough road trip that we played real well on for the most part. We're looking forward to tonight's game and the next two games and then we get a nice break after that. Hopefully we can carry the momentum and play real well at home."

Florida hasn't played at BB&T???Center since New Year's Eve, when it lost 5-2 to the New York Rangers, ending its streak of eight home games with at least one point (6-0-2).

The Panthers (20-12-9) are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 49 points, three behind the Boston Bruins. But the Panthers have played three fewer games.

"It's nice to be back,"???defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "It was a long trip. It obviously didn't end the way we wanted to, but we played some really good hockey on the road. I???think coming back and bringing those points back is huge, but at the end of the day you've got to come home and take care of business at home, especially that first game back."

The Panthers and Avalanche will be facing off for the second and final time this season. The Panthers won 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 21 at Pepsi Center when Brad Boyes scored a power-play goal.

Colorado will be playing the third game of a five-game road trip that began with a 2-1 loss against the Washington Capitals on Monday and a 3-2 shootout loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

The Avalanche (18-17-9) are 11th place in the Western Conference standings but are 9-4-3 over their past 16 games.

One issue lately for Colorado has been giving up too many shots. Colorado has allowed at least 38 shots in each of its past five games, including a season-high 54 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 6 in a game Colorado won 2-0 behind the stellar goaltending of Semyon Varlamov.

"We're very happy with the way we've been playing,"???Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I???just feel that we're playing better hockey despite the fact that sometimes it's hard to prove when you're giving up a lot of shots. But I???feel that offensively we're doing better, we're putting more pucks on net, more traffic. Defensively, I???just feel that we could cut down on those shots, but overall the scoring chances, stuff like this, we do a decent job."

Here are the projected lineups:


Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Daniel Briere

Alex Tanguay - Ryan O'Reilly- Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Maxime Talbot - Nathan MacKinnon

Dennis Everberg - John Mitchell - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Brad Stuart - Nick Holden

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Zach Redmond, Marc-Andre Cliche

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Jesse Winchester (concussion), Ryan Wilson (shoulder surgery)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes

Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Tomas Fleischmann

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Scottie Upshall

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched:?????????Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck

Injuries: Shawn Thornton (lower body)

Status report: The Avalanche recalled Everberg from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League on Thursday. He has a goal and three assists in 18 games with the Avalanche this season. … Center Ben Street, who returned Monday after missing 21 games with a hand injury, was sent to Lake Erie to make room on the roster for Everberg. … Cliche will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season, the first since Oct. 16. … Thornton will miss his 17th consecutive game, but Gallant said he was close to returning. … The Panthers reassigned defenseman Shane O'Brien to San Antonio of the AHL.

Who's hot:???????????????????????????Fleischmann has a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists). … Huberdeau has three goals and three assists in the past four games. … Iginla and Tanguay each have four points in the past four games.

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