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Panthers-Hurricanes Preview @NHLdotcom
Panthers-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (13-19-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (22-9-2).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

Martin Gerber has posted shutouts in his first two starts against Florida this season.

Another strong performance against the Panthers could help the Carolina Hurricanes complete a perfect 5-0 homestand.

"That's been our focus through this whole homestand," Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican said. "We had a couple games on the previous road trip that were beneath our expectations, so we really wanted to get back on track when we came home.

"So far we're four for four, and we are looking to close out this mini-segment with a win before the holidays."

Gerber, who was named to the Swiss Olympic team Wednesday, blanked the Panthers 2-0 and 1-0 on Nov. 5 and 11, respectively.

"It's always a really tight game," Gerber said of facing the Panthers. "They have great goaltending - probably one of the best in the league in Roberto Luongo.

"Lately, their offense has been working as well, so we can't relax - we'll have to go out there and try to dictate the game because they have a good hockey club."

Gerber had never faced Florida before this season. He has made 53 saves in the first two meetings.

The Panthers have won four of their last five games, including Thursday's 4-1 victory over Buffalo. Jozef Stumpel scored two goals and Luongo made 27 saves as Florida ended Buffalo's seven-game winning streak and a 13-game run by Sabres goalie Martin Biron.

Rostislav Olesz and Olli Jokinen also had goals for Florida.

"We played a solid 60 minutes," Jokinen said. "In the second we took over the game and gave up a freak goal but we played smart and held the lead."

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Panthers - 30 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 46 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Nathan Horton, 16 goals; Jokinen, 20 assists and 34 points; Chris Gratton, 57 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 24 goals and 47 points; Cory Stillman, 24 assists; Mike Commodore, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Panthers - Power play: 15.7 percent (29 for 185), tied for 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (182 for 226), tied for 24th. Hurricanes - Power play: 19.1 percent (40 for 209), 8th. Penalty killing: 79 percent (147 for 186), 26th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (13-15-4, 2 SO, 3.10 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.10). Hurricanes - Gerber (16-6-1, 2, 2.55); Cam Ward (6-3-1, 0, 4.05).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 11; Hurricanes. At Florida, Luongo made 34 saves, but it wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from suffering a seventh consecutive loss.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 3-13-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 13-4-0 at home.

Associated Press
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