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Preview: Panthers at Ducks

Defenseman Sami Vatanen back in Anaheim lineup; goaltender James Reimer to start for Florida

by Dan Arritt / Correspondent

PANTHERS (25-20-10) at DUCKS (30-18-10)

10 p.m. ET; SN1, PRIME, FS-F, NHL.TV


Panthers team scope

Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer will start in the third game of a five-game road trip. Reimer held the Anaheim Ducks to one goal on Feb. 3 in a 2-1 victory at BB&T Center, and won in relief in a 6-5 overtime victory at the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, after starter Roberto Luongo left with cramps after San Jose scored the tying goal with 37.4 seconds left in regulation. Luongo took part in the morning skate and will back up against the Anaheim Ducks. The Panthers, three points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, have scored 13 goals in their past two games. Their offense has gotten a spark from forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov; Huberdeau has seven points (three goals, four assists) in a four-game point streak after missing the first 51 games of this season following Achilles surgery, and Barkov has six points (four goals, two assists) in a four-game point streak after missing 15 games because of a back injury. Coach Tom Rowe said the Panthers need to be better in their own zone; they've allowed four or more goals in four of their past five games, including 15 in their past three. "We're not going to be a run-and-gun team," Rowe said. "We need to realize, going into the playoffs, when you're playing playoff teams, you have to play a real stingy two-way hockey game, so that's what we're striving to do." Defenseman Keith Yandle is two points from 400 in his NHL career.


Ducks team scope

Defenseman Sami Vatanen is expected to return after missing five games because of a knee injury. Vatanen was activated off injured reserve Friday, and the Ducks returned defenseman Shea Theodore to San Diego of the American Hockey League. Forward Corey Tropp could make his Anaheim debut after being recalled to fill the roster spot of forward Antoine Vermette, who will be serving the first game of a 10-game suspension for making contact with an official during a 1-0 victory Tuesday at the Minnesota Wild. Forwards Nate Thompson and Rickard Rakell will be asked by coach Randy Carlyle to play bigger roles in Vermette's absence. Thompson, like Vermette, is a left-handed center who will be utilized more on defensive-zone faceoffs and penalty-kill units. Rakell is a natural center, but has mainly played left wing on a line with veterans Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and leads the Ducks with 22 goals in 47 games. Carlyle said he believes Rakell's future is at center, and he'll get a chance to play extra minutes in the middle with Vermette out. Forward Jakob Silfverberg moved from right wing on a line with Ryan Kesler and Andrew Cogliano to left wing with Getzlaf and rookie Ondrej Kase. Silfverberg, who has 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 55 games, has not played regularly at left wing since he was with Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League prior to coming to North America. The Ducks are four points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division.


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Gregg McKegg -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Mark Pysyk -- Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

James Reimer

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Michael Sgarbossa, Jakub Kindl

Injured: none


Ducks projected lineup  

Ondrej Kase -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Jakob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie -- Rickard Rakell -- Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano -- Ryan Kesler -- Logan Shaw

Joseph Cramarossa -- Nate Thompson -- Corey Tropp

Cam Fowler -- Sami Vatanen

Hampus Lindholm -- Josh Manson

Brandon Montour -- Kevin Bieksa

John Gibson

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Jared Boll

Injured: Simon Despres (upper body), Clayton Stoner (lower body)


Status report

McKegg will play for the first time since Jan. 31, replacing Sgarbossa on Florida's third line. Rowe said he was looking for more muscle against Anaheim. "I think [Friday's] going to be a playoff-type atmosphere and it's going to be a physical game," Rowe said. "Anaheim, they play a very hard game, so we just wanted to be a little bit stronger on the third line."


Who's hot

Trocheck has 17 points (nine goals eight assists) in his past 14 games. ... Jokinen has five points (three goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak. … Silfverberg has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past seven games. … Perry has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last three games.

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