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GAME: Florida Panthers (27-31-14-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (26-31-13-6).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

Although the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes won't be making the playoffs this season, their final three meetings could determine who finishes in second place in the Southeast Division.

Florida and Carolina play the first of three matchups over the final 11 days of the regular season when they meet at RBC Center.

The Panthers and Hurricanes have been eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, but both teams are in a fight with the Atlanta Thrashers for second place in the Southeast behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The season series between Florida and Carolina is tied 1-1-1. Following Thursday's game, the clubs meet at the Office Depot Center on Monday before ending the regular season with a matchup there on April 4.

Florida earned a point in its last outing Tuesday night, but saw its losing streak reach three games with a 4-3 overtime defeat to the New Jersey Devils.

The loss, combined with the New York Islanders' victory over the Washington Capitals, eliminated Florida from playoff contention.

"You want to win all your games," Florida defenseman Mike Van Ryn said. "It's unfortunate, we've had the goaltending to make a better (playoff) push than we did."

Carolina had its six-game point streak (4-0-0-2) come to an end Tuesday with a 4-2 home loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia Flyers.

The Hurricanes were also eliminated from playoff contention when the Islanders beat the Capitals.

"We have games left to play, and we can't make the playoffs this year," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "So now everything that we do from this day forward is to make the playoffs next year and compete for a Stanley Cup. We'll be back to work."

STANDINGS: Panthers - 72 points, 2nd place (tied), 27 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 71 points, 4th place, 28 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 23 goals, 26 assists and 49 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 147 PIM. Hurricanes - Erik Cole and Josef Vasicek, 17 goals; Justin Williams, 30 assists and 41 points; Jesse Boulerice, 120 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 23): Panthers - Power play: 16.4 percent (47 for 286), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (299 for 347), 2nd. Hurricanes - Power play: 11.1 percent (40 for 360), 30th. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (275 for 335), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Roberto Luongo (24-31-13, 7 SO, 2.35 GAA); Steve Shields (3-4-1, 3.42). Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (22-28-10, 6, 2.27); Arturs Irbe (4-1-1, 1.95).


LAST MEETING: Feb. 16; Hurricanes, 3-1. At Raleigh, N.C., Sean Hill and Pavel Brendl scored first-period goals, and Weekes stopped 20 shots as the Hurricanes won their first home game since Jan. 8.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 12-18-8-1 on the road; Hurricanes - 12-16-8-2 at home.

Associated Press
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