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Panthers, Ducks set for rare meeting

by Matthew Mankiewich /
PANTHERS (10-12-0) at DUCKS (12-11-3)

TV -- FS-F (HD), FS-W (HD)

Last 10 -- Florida 5-5-0, Anaheim 4-4-2.

Season series -- Another inter-conference one-night stand, the Ducks shut out the Panthers 3-0 at BankAtlantic Center on Feb. 1, Jonas Hiller's last shutout until he blanked the Kings on Monday. The Ducks have won four of their last six meetings against the Panthers.

Big story -- Thanks in large part to the Kings coming back to the pack after their record-setting start, the Ducks find themselves shooting for the top of the Pacific Division. On the other hand, everybody else is, too, as only three points separate the top from the bottom among the five teams. It's not quite as rosy for the Panthers at the moment, as they are currently seven points behind the eighth-seeded Bruins in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Panthers -- The Cats have had a long rest since they stopped a three-game slide with a 4-3 shootout win in Tampa Bay on Saturday. It was their second straight road win and third of four, and came in handy in the aftermath of an 0-3 homestand.

This three-game western swing is important enough that for the first time ever, coach Peter DeBoer decided to bring the team over three days early to acclimate themselves to the three-hour time differential.

"We've got a couple of good practices planned to get your body used to the [three-hour] time change,'' DeBoer told the Sun-Sentinel on Sunday.

"The last time we went west, we really felt the effects of going out the day before the game and we just got thumped." That was in 2008, when they lost to the Kings and Coyotes before salvaging one in Anaheim.

Ducks -- It was an impressive display Monday as the Ducks dominated the Kings 2-0 at Honda Center. Hiller made 27 saves as Teemu Selanne set up Cam Fowler and Jason Blake with goals.

"That's the type of game our hockey club has to play night in and night out," coach Randy Carlyle told the team's official website. "It was a good one for us. We had an effort from every member of our group. That is what is important.

"The true display was at the end of the game, when people that were on the ice were sacrificing their bodies to block shots and get into shooting lanes to protect that shutout for Jonas Hiller."

Who's hot -- Selanne's two assists Monday give him eight goals and 15 assists in his last 20 games. Panthers management has good reason to make sure their team is ready for the West Coast -- the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes have a 20-9-4 record at home. Fowler's goal on Monday was the Ducks' sixth on the power play in their last seven games. He has nine points himself in his last 10.

Injury report -- Panthers forward Steve Bernier (orbital surgery) made the trip and is probable to play after missing eight games. Forward Cory Stillman tweaked his back in the third period Saturday and is day-to-day. Ducks forward Joffrey Lupul is progressing well in his conditioning assignment with the Syracuse Crunch, scoring the game-winner for them on the power play in a 3-2 win over Hamilton on Monday. He may play one more game there before the Ducks must either recall him or request a two-game extension.

Stat pack -- The Panthers went 0-for-4 on Saturday with a man up and have failed to convert in their last 37 opportunities, keeping them dead-last in the NHL overall at a mere 6.4 percent. Contrast that with Anaheim's seventh-best 21.8 percent. Saturday was the first overtime game for the Panthers this season. They managed to log their first shorthanded goal this season in an interesting way -- on a penalty shot. Radek Dvorak's goal on Saturday was counted as shorthanded because the infraction occurred when the Cats were a man down. Dvorak extended his franchise record for shorthanded goals to 16 as a result.

Puck drop -- "The mood lightens a little bit when you get wins. Coming off two big wins against division rivals is huge. Those are four-point games and you move up in the standings. That is what we have to continue to build on. These points are crucial. It’s going to be like that all season. We expect a tight race in this whole conference and this division is going to be tight as well." -- Ducks forward Corey Perry on the team's official web site on their current four-game  homestand

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