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Preview: Hurricanes at Panthers

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad returns from concussion; Cam Ward starts in goal for Carolina

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

HURRICANES (30-27-13) at PANTHERS (31-29-11)

7:30 p.m. ET; FS-CR, FS-F, NHL.TV


Hurricanes team scope

The Carolina Hurricanes are eight points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup playoffs from the Eastern Conference, but have a game in hand. Goalie Cam Ward will make his second consecutive start for the Hurricanes, who are playing the second game of a four-game road trip. They are 4-0-3 in their past seven games, including a 4-3 overtime loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in which the they were outshot 44-22. Eddie Lack had started the previous two games, home victories against the Minnesota Wild (3-1) and the Nashville Predators (4-2). "We can't go wrong right now in our opinion with what we do in net, so we've got to plan for the rest of this trip," coach Bill Peters said. "(Ward) gave us our chance (against the Flyers). We didn't have much energy on Sunday on the back-to-back there and he held us in there and gave us a chance to get a point. It was a valuable point and we wouldn't have been in that position without his play through 40 (minutes)." 


Panthers team scope

The Florida Panthers, who are eight points behind the Maple Leafs for the second wild card in the East, will have defenseman Aaron Ekblad back in the lineup. He had missed the past four games because of a concussion sustained in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 11. "It's great to see him," coach Tom Rowe said. "We can't afford to have him out of the lineup. Having him back 5-on-5 [and] power play gives us a real good dimension back there and it gives us a little bit more of an offensive attack breaking out of our end." Goalie Reto Berra, who was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on March 3 after Roberto Luongo sustained a hip injury, will make his first NHL start since Dec. 9, 2015. Berra has made one relief appearance since his recall, allowing no goals on eight shots in a 5-2 home loss to the New York Rangers on March 7. James Reimer had started the past eight games. "[Berra] deserves a chance," Rowe said. "He did a great job in Springfield this year and I know (goaltender coach Robb Tallas) wanted to give him a game in here. (Reimer), we've been running him pretty hard, so we'll get him some rest and get him ready for the next couple."


Hurricanes projected lineup

Sebastian Aho -- Jordan Staal -- Teuvo Teravainen

Brock McGinn -- Victor Rask -- Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner -- Derek Ryan -- Lee Stempniak

Joakim Nordstrom -- Patrick Brown -- Phillip Di Giuseppe

Jaccob Slavin -- Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin -- Brett Pesce

Klas Dahlbeck -- Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Matt Tennyson

Injured: Valentin Zykov (upper body), Jay McClement (lower body)  


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson -- Jason Demers

Mark Pysyk -- Alex Petrovic

Reto Berra

James Reimer  

Scratched: Michael Sgarbossa, Denis Malgin, Jakub Kindl

Injured: Roberto Luongo (lower body)


Status report  

Zykov will miss his sixth consecutive game. He was injured after playing 37 seconds against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 11. … Malgin has been cleared to play after missing the past four games because of a concussion, but he'll be a healthy scratch. Rowe said he did not want to break up the line of Sceviour, MacKenzie and Thornton. Kindl, who played the past four games after being a healthy scratch for 19 consecutive games, is expected to sit again. With Ekblad back in the lineup, the Panthers returned defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to Springfield of the AHL.


Who's hot

Lindholm has eight points (three goals, five assists) during a seven-game point streak. Skinner hasw three goals in the past two games. Staal has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his past seven games. … Vanek has six assists in his past four games. Barkov has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past six games.

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