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Panthers back in North America to face 'Canes @NHLdotcom

PANTHERS (1-1-0) at HURRICANES (1-2-0)

Season series: First of six meetings this season between Southeast Division rivals. They split last season’s series, though two of Carolina’s victories came in overtime. Florida earned at least a point in five of the six games. Cory Stillman of the Panthers and Tuomo Ruutu of the Hurricanes led all scorers with three goals apiece.

Big Story: Carolina has been to three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Finals and has a championship to its credit since 2002, while Florida is searching for its first playoff berth since 2000. If the Panthers want to get where the Hurricanes have been frequently during this decade, they must answer the bell in division grudge matches such as this one.

Team Scope:

Panthers – Returning home for its first game in North America after splitting a pair in Helsinki, Finland, as part of the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere, Florida gets a major test right off the bat. The Panthers got off to a great start with a shootout win over the Blackhawks, a legit contender in the Western Conference, but they were stymied by Antti Niemi and shut out in the second game of the back-to-back.

"In the end, we got two points out of it and that is better than nothing," Florida defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "It was good advertising for the NHL and I hope the fans enjoyed it. It sure seemed like they did."

Hurricanes – A stormy start to the season in Carolina finally came to an end Tuesday with a 2-1 shootout victory over Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes had been shut out by the Flyers in their season opener and soundly defeated by the Bruins over the weekend. Cam Ward rebounded from being pulled in Boston to stop 27 shots and two shootout attempts by the Lightning.

"We just got back to our game," Ward said. "In order to be successful in this league you’ve got to be able to put games behind you and not let them bother you moving forward. We learned from the Boston loss. It wasn’t pretty there but we left that in Boston and we were excited to come home."  

Who's Hot – If you’re talking about the shootout, Sergei Samsonov is your man. The Carolina forward notched his fourth career deciding goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker on Tuesday. At the opposite end, Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun faced 88 shots in his first two starts and stopped 81 of them, for a .920 save percentage. He will start again versus the Hurricanes.

Injury Report – Panthers defenseman Nick Tarnasky has not yet played this season due to a broken orbital bone suffered during a preseason fight. Backup goalie Scott Clemmensen is healthy, but has left the team to attend to "family matters" in Iowa, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

Hurricanes forward Erik Cole suffered a broken leg in Saturday’s loss to Boston and was placed on injured reserve. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who was battling a knee injury, left Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay with an unspecified lower-body injury.

Stat Pack – Recently-signed Panthers center Dominic Moore won 54.1 percent of his faceoffs last season, good for 12th in the League. Florida won just 42.9 percent of its faceoffs in the two games against Chicago in Helsinki. Moore can also contribute offensively, as he recorded career highs of 13 goals and 45 points last season with Toronto and Buffalo.

Puck Drop – The Panthers have to be psyched for their home opener against New Jersey on Saturday, but first things first. This is a potential four-point swing within the division, and even this early in the season that should get the blood flowing.

-- Brian Hunter,






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