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Panthers hope to turn things around against Jets

by Corey Masisak

JETS (3-2-1) at PANTHERS (1-5-0)


Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams. They split the six matchups in 2011-12, with Winnipeg winning the final two.

Big story: The defending Southeast Division champion Panthers are trying to shake free from an early season struggles, while the Jets are trying to keep pace with the current leaders in the division, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Team Scope:

Jets: Winnipeg's offense has surged after starting the 2012-13 season with back-to-back one goal efforts. The Jets have 16 goals in the past four games, and are average three per contest. Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom are among the top-scoring defense duos in the League, and the early part of this season. Byfuglien and Enstrom have seven points each, which makes them one of three tandems to have accomplished that along with Montreal's Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz and St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Offense was not the problem a season ago for Winnipeg -- the Jets were 12th in the NHL in goals per game -- but preventing them was another matter. It is a small sample size, but they have better at keeping the puck out of their net. Winnipeg is tied for 14th while yielding 2.83 per contest -- up from rating 25th a season ago.

Panthers: Florida's 38 wins last season was the lowest by a playoff team, but the Panthers won the Southeast because they were adept at getting games to overtime. That hasn't been the case to this point, as Florida has lost five of six to start the season and none of the games have needed extra time.

The Panthers have lost five straight and only one was by fewer than three goals. They are 29th in the League in goals for (1.47 per contest) and last in goals allowed (4.00). While those numbers alone are a problem, the hot start of the Lightning means the Panthers are already eight points back in their quest to defend the division crown.

Who’s hot: Evander Kane was held pointless in the first two games of the season, but he's got seven in the past four. Kane was the only player in the League through the games Tuesday night to have at least 20 shots on goal and 20 hits -- he has 21 and 23, respectively. Peter Mueller has goals in back-to-back games for the Panthers and is tied for the team lead with two.

Injury report: Defenseman Zach Bogosian (wrist) is out for the Jets. Mike Caruso (wrist) and Sean Bergenheim (undisclosed) are definitely out for the Panthers. Erik Gudbranson (shoulder) was sent to the American Hockey League. Stephen Weiss (lower body) and Marcel Goc (ankle) skated Wednesday and are questionable for Thursday against the Jets.

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