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Jets seek to snap out of skid as Panthers pay visit

by Brian Hunter

PANTHERS (3-5-0) at JETS (3-4-1)


Season series: Second of five meetings between these Southeast Division rivals. Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg each had a goal and an assist as the Panthers doubled up the Jets, 6-3, at BB&T Center on Jan. 31.

Big story: Lengthy losing streaks in a shortened season can put a major crimp in a team's postseason aspirations. Florida dropped five in a row following an opening night victory, but has since responded with back-to-back victories. Winnipeg now returns home from a disastrous three-game road trip in which it allowed 18 goals while going 0-3, and will try to right its own ship while beginning a four-game run at MTS Centre.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Down two goals on the road midway through Sunday's game, Florida battled back for a character win against Buffalo. George Parros, added as a free agent more for his toughness than his scoring ability, got the rally started before Peter Mueller and Brian Campbell added goals that gave the Panthers a 4-3 victory over the Sabres.

"We battled," Campbell said. "We're starting to come as a team a bit more now and have faith in coming back. Early in the season, we didn't have a whole lot of faith and confidence, but you're starting to see our team develop."

Jets: The offense was steady during Winnipeg's road trip, scoring three goals in each game, but that doesn't do a whole lot when you're letting an average of six pucks per night into your own net. The struggles of the defense and goalie Ondrej Pavelec reached a head in Friday's 8-3 loss to the Lightning, in which the Jets fell behind 6-0 before the end of the second period. It rendered goals by Tobias Enstrom, Paul Postma and Andrew Ladd in a 4:15 stretch of the third as window dressing.

"Disappointing in a lot of aspects," Ladd said via the team's official website. "Five on five I thought we played pretty well, but when you spot a team four goals it's tough to battle back, especially in a back-to-back.

"We can't afford to do this again. To dig yourself that big of a hole two games in a row, two big road games against two division teams is unacceptable and something that will not happen again."

Who's hot: Mueller has goals in four straight games for the Panthers. Campbell has goals in consecutive games to give him four already, matching his total in 82 games last season. Tomas Kopecky has a goal and three assists in the last two games. … Enstrom has two goals and eight assists during a six-game points streak for the Jets. Postma has a goal and three assists in the last two games.

Injury report: Florida defenseman Ed Jovanovski has missed the last two games with a knee injury. Defenseman Michael Caruso (wrist) and forward Scottie Upshall (ankle) are on injured reserve. Forward Sean Bergenheim hasn't played yet this season and remains suspended by the team after suffering an injury while playing overseas during the lockout. … Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Zach Bogosian (wrist) and forward Antti Miettinen (upper body) are on injured reserve.

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