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Jets minus Kane again; Kulikov back in for Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets will play a second consecutive game without left wing Evander Kane on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, but he should be back in the lineup before too long.

Kane, who was injured in a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers this past Friday, will be evaluated on a daily basis after tests didn't reveal any structural damage.

"We didn't see anything there that would cause us to be alarmed," Jets coach Claude Noel said before his team's optional skate Thursday. "He's just day-to-day. He's got to work his way through this. He won't be a player in tonight's game, but we'll just take it one day at a time."

With Kane sitting out, the Jets beat the New York Rangers 5-2 Monday to improve to 3-1-0 on their season-long six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday with a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"For the most part, we've been fairly steady in our play," Noel said. "We've played a better 60 minutes, our intensity has been better. We've got a lot of good performances from a lot of players, and our 60 minutes and our team play and our individual games have been good. That's what's really helped us. Our goaltending has been very, very good as well. That really helps us anytime."

Florida, meanwhile, is wrapping a five-game homestand which began with a 3-1 victory against the Flyers but has been followed by losses against the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators by a combined score of 14-5.

As they try to get back on track, the Panthers are expected to have veteran forward Tomas Kopecky back in the lineup after he missed the past five games because of an upper-body injury.

Kopecky took part in the Panthers' morning skate and just needed final medical clearance to be in the lineup against the Jets. He skated in the morning on a line with Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann.

"He's got skill and size, and size is something you can't teach," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. "Having both those things together is a valuable tool. He's a guy that's got some experience. He's been a voice in the room."

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will be back in the lineup against the Jets after being a healthy scratch Tuesday, a 4-2 loss against Ottawa.

Kulikov, the 14th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, was benched after a series of costly turnovers.

"Hopefully he gets back to where he was," Horachek said. "When you get back and you make some decisions that aren't the best, you take a step back, you look and you realize and then you get your gumption back up. Obviously you want him playing at his best. That's what you're shooting for."

Veteran Tim Thomas was the first Panthers goalie off the ice and is expected to make his 13th consecutive start.

Here are the projected lineups for the Jets and Panthers at BB&T Center:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Chris Thorburn - Olli Jokinen - Devin Setoguchi

Michael Frolik - Mark Scheifele - Matt Halischuk

James Wright - John Albert - Anthony Peluso

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien

Keaton Ellerby - Mark Stuart

Grant Clitsome - Jacob Trouba

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Eric Tangradi

Injured: Evander Kane (lower body), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Jim Slater (lower body), Paul Postma (lower body)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Krys Barch - Shawn Matthias - Jimmy Hayes

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Mike Mottau, Jesse Winchester

Injured: Matt Gilroy (lower body), Ed Jovanovski (lower body)

Notes: Gomez, signed in the offseason as a free agent, will be a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game. "It's what I think is best for the lineup for this team every night, day in and day out," Horachek said. "He's not a type of player that's going to be on the fourth line. When you have Bjugstad and Barkov in those situations, that's where he needs to be."

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