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Predators, Panthers look to end slumps

Florida's Jagr two goals shy of tying Hull for third all-time

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

PREDATORS (25-21-9) at PANTHERS (32-17-6)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-F, NHL.TV

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Goalie Roberto Luongo will start for the Florida Panthers against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, one night after getting pulled during a 5-3 loss against the St. Louis Blues. 

Jaromir Jagr had two assists in the loss against St. Louis to give him 1,842 points, eight behind Gordie Howe for third-most in NHL history. His 739 goals have him two shy of Brett Hull's total for third all-time. 

It wasn't as good a night for Luongo, who allowed three goals on 13 shots against St. Louis before being replaced after the first period. He will start each end of a back-to-back set for the second time this season. He did it Jan. 22-23 when the Panthers swept the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning at BB&T Center. 

"It wasn't a good night for us last night and we didn't play well," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said after an optional morning skate. "We don't like pulling goaltenders, but we thought it would spark us a little bit and try to get them a little better. The goaltending has been our strong point all year long. We'll put him back in there tonight and hopefully we'll play real well as a team and get back at it." 

Luongo has given up at least three goals in each of his past four starts. 

Luongo made 32 saves Dec. 3 when the Panthers ended a 16-year winless drought at Nashville with a 2-1 victory. Forwards Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Florida, which had 16 shots on goal. Defenseman Roman Josi scored for Nashville. 

Panthers forward John McFarland, a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut Saturday. He is the last of their six picks in the first two rounds of the 2010 draft to reach the NHL, following first-round selections Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Howden and second-round choices Alex Petrovic and Connor Brickley. 

"I knew coming in they were going to be ups and downs," McFarland said. "Obviously I would have liked to be here quicker than I was, but I'm really excited to be here and to help the team." 

Florida has lost three of its past four games following a 17-3-1 stretch. 

Nashville has lost two in a row and four of five after giving up a tying goal in the final minute of a 4-3 overtime loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. 

Forward James Neal scored his 20th goal in the loss; he is one of seven active players with at least 20 goals in each of his first eight NHL seasons. 

Backup goalie Carter Hutton could make his first start since Jan. 27 after Pekka Rinne made 24 saves in Tampa. The Predators have split goalie starts for their past seven back-to-back sets after Rinne started games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild on Nov. 20-21. 

The Predators, who are on their fathers' trip, did not have a morning skate Saturday. 

Here are the projected lines: 

Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal   
Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith   
Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Viktor Arvidsson   
Miikka Salomaki - Paul Gaustad - Cody Bass   

Roman Josi - Shea Weber   
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis   
Barret Jackman - Anthony Bitetto   

Carter Hutton   
Pekka Rinne 

Injured: Eric Nystrom (lower body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body) 
Scratched: Petter Granberg, Austin Watson   

Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Jaromir Jagr   
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith   
Quinton Howden - Brandon Pirri - Logan Shaw  
Garrett Wilson - Derek MacKenzie - John McFarland 

Brian Campbell - Alex Petrovic 
Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad   
Steven Kampfer - Brent Regner  

Roberto Luongo  
Al Montoya  

Injured: Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Erik Gudbranson (upper body), Willie Mitchell (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body) 
Scratched: Shawn Thornton  

Status report: Nystrom will miss his seventh game because of a lower-body injury. … Seven Florida players skated Saturday morning and Luongo was the only goalie on the ice. … Barkov will miss his third game because of an upper-body injury. 

Who's hot: Forsberg has four goals during a three-game goal streak. … Wilson is on a four-game point streak against the Panthers (one goal, three assists). … Fisher has six goals and two assists in his past six games against Florida. … Campbell has a goal and three assists in the past four games. … Jagr has two goals and five assists in the past six games.

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