GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (33-11-4) at Florida Panthers (19-24-7).
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.
After the lockout, it was not immediately known if Carolina goaltender Martin Gerber could handle the rigors of being a starting goaltender for an entire season. Don't tell that to the Florida Panthers.
Gerber and the Hurricanes look for their fourth straight win this season over the Panthers as the teams face off at the BankAtlantic Center.
Carolina begins play tied with the Ottawa Senators for the league lead with 70 points.
When the Hurricanes acquired Gerber in June 2004, he recorded just 17 wins in 52 games over two seasons with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks as a backup to Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
This season, though, Gerber has established career highs with 34 games played, 32 starts, 23 wins and three shutouts - two of them coming against the Panthers.
Gerber, who will represent Switzerland at next month's Turin Olympics, is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and has stopped 75 of 78 shots for a .962 save percentage.
Gerber did not start in Carolina's last game as backup Cam Ward made 31 saves, and Eric Staal and Justin Williams each had a goal and two assists in the Hurricanes' 7-3 rout Monday of the Montreal Canadiens for their eighth straight home win.
Carolina led 2-1 early in the second period before Matt Cullen, Staal and Andrew Ladd scored in 2:38 span to chase Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore.
"We had everyone playing out there, every line was going," said Staal. "That's when we're at our best and our team's playing at its best. We need to have that every game."
The Panthers can also boast an Olympic goaltender on their roster. Roberto Luongo, who will represent Canada, made 48 saves, and Olli Jokinen scored his second goal 1:45 into overtime Tuesday in Florida's 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, snapping a three-game skid.
"I got into a nice rhythm against a very dangerous team," Luongo said. "I could tell I had good reaction and a good sense of the action."
Luongo is 0-3-0 against the Hurricanes this season and just 6-10-3 with a 2.41 GAA, a .930 save percentage and one shutout lifetime against them.
Jokinen, who will play for Sweden at the Olympics, has five multi-goal games this season and five multi-point games in his career against the Panthers.
STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 70 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Panthers - 45 points, 4th place, 25 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 31 goals and 64 points; Cory Stillman, 34 assists; Mike Commodore, 86 PIM. Panthers - Jokinen, 23 goals, 28 assists and 51 points; Chris Gratton, 69 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 23): Hurricanes - Power play: 19.2 percent (61 for 318), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (215 for 267), 22nd. Panthers - Power play: 15.0 percent (38 for 254), 26th. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (258 for 314), 16th.
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (23-8-2, 3 SO, 2.76 GAA); Cam Ward (10-3-2, 0, 3.58). Panthers - Luongo (19-20-7, 2, 3.02); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.09).
SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 23; Hurricanes, 4-3. At Raleigh, N.C., Rod Brind'Amour scored the only goal for Carolina in 15 power-play chances midway through the third period. Jokinen scored twice for the Panthers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 11-7-3 on the road; Panthers - 13-6-3 at home.