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Flames continue road swing in Florida

by Frank Mentesana /

FLAMES (14-14-3) at PANTHERS (16-9-6)

TV: SNET-West (HD)

Last 10: Calgary 6-2-2; Florida 4-3-3

Season Series: Friday's matchup is the lone meeting of the season between these clubs. The last time they squared off was 14 months ago, when the Panthers blanked the Flames 3-0 on Oct. 14, 2010, in Calgary.

Big Story: Two teams playing well in every aspect except the win column will face off Friday in Sunrise. The Panthers have lost three straight -- but only once in regulation -- and with points in five of six, still hold a five-point lead over Washington in the Southeast. Following a 6-1-1 stretch, Calgary has dropped the first two of a four-game road swing, including a 5-4 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Flames: Calgary comes to South Florida after getting half a loaf in Tampa -- the Flames erased two-goal third-period deficit with goals from Rene Bourque and Olli Jokinen, but allowed a goal to Steven Stamkos 30 seconds into OT to leave with just one point. Jokinen blamed himself after getting caught deep in the offensive zone on the game-winner.

"The overtime goal was my fault ... I should have stayed high," Jokinen said. "You put yourself in a position where you have a chance to win and get two points, then a mistake like that on my part, not playing smart hockey, cost us an extra point."

Defenseman Derek Smith said that despite forcing overtime, letting points slip away still stings.

"We can't keep throwing these points away," Smith said. "We're beating ourselves, and if we want to keep climbing the standings we can't let this happen again."

Panthers: The Panthers kicked off a four-game homestand on Tuesday by earning a point against New Jersey -- but it could have been two points had they not squandered a 2-0 lead. Kris Versteeg opened the scoring late in the first period, then gave Florida a two-goal cushion with a shorthanded breakaway goal 7:29 into the second. However, Patrik Elias cut the deficit in half just 56 seconds later, and Zach Parise tied the game midway through the third, eventually sending the game into a shootout. That's bad news for the Panthers -- they dropped their fourth straight tiebreaker by failing to put their two attempts past Martin Brodeur while Jose Theodore surrendered two goals on three tries to give the Devils the extra point.

The Panthers, who were limited to just one shot in the final period, lost three in a row for the first time since they dropped three consecutive shootouts -- against Winnipeg, Chicago and Tampa Bay -- from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.

"We didn't play well tonight," coach Kevin Dineen said. "I think that's a follow through (after a 6-1 loss in New York to the Rangers on Sunday). We looked tired and weren't moving our feet and we didn't have much options. Not a great night for us."

Who's Hot: Jokinen added an assist to go with his goal Thursday, giving him a team-leading 23 points. … Versteeg has a four-game point-streak with three goals and two assists in that stretch.

Injury Report: Florida forwards Scottie Upshall (hip) and Marcel Goc (concussion-like symptoms) are on IR, while blueliner Erik Gudbranson (leg) missed Tuesday's game and is day-to-day. … For Calgary, backup goalie Henrik Karlsson (sprained MCL), forward David Moss (foot) and defensemen Anton Babchuk (hand) and Mark Giordano (torn leg tendon) are on IR.

Stat Pack: The Flames could have 2006 first-round pick Leland Irving in goal on Friday in what would be his NHL debut. Irving is 15-7-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average for Abbotsford (AHL). … With two tallies against the Devils, Versteeg notched his fourth multi-goal game and his eighth multi-point contest. He leads the club with 15 goals and 33 points and is in the top 10 in the League in both of those categories.

Puck Drop: The Panthers' last 10 home games have all been one-goal affairs. They are 4-1-5 in those games, with all four of their shootout losses this season coming in that span. Florida has just one win in five shootouts and only one goal in 14 attempts.

"There's so many different ways to analyze this," Dineen said about his team's struggles in the tiebreaker -- a problem that has plagued the Panthers since the tiebreaker was introduced in 2005. "It's such a specialized way to end a game. We've lost a lot of points in shootouts. It's something we need to improve at."

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