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Panthers-Hurricanes Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Florida Panthers (23-28-8) at Carolina Hurricanes (40-14-4).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes own the NHL's best home record and will try to match the team's single-season franchise mark for home wins as they host the Florida Panthers in a Southeast Division matchup.

The Hurricanes are 25-5-1 at home this season, just one victory from the record set by the 1986-87 squad when it was still the Hartford Whalers.

Carolina beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Wednesday to maintain its Eastern Conference lead with 84 points and pull within one point of the league-best Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes are 17-4-0 in their last 21 games.

Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 4:24 remaining. Ray Whitney and Oleg Tverdovsky also tallied goals for the Hurricanes, who reached 40 wins for only the third time in franchise history.

Carolina trailed 3-2 after two periods before recording its seventh win when trailing after two periods.

"I would hope we come out the way we did tonight, with a sense of urgency and put the foot on the gas and be the best team in the league," said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who coached the U.S. Olympic team in Turin, Italy.

Left wingers Cory Stillman and Erik Cole each added assists to extend their respective point streaks to five games. Stillman is also just one goal shy of 200 for his career.

While the Hurricanes continue to win, the Panthers tallied their NHL-leading seventh shutout loss Thursday, 1-0 to the Montreal Canadiens. The defeat followed an 8-2 win Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Lightning in which Florida had a season high in goals.

Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo made 26 saves against Montreal, but he couldn't stop Alexei Kovalev's game-winner with 5:49 left. Florida nearly got the equalizer when Jozef Stumpel hit the post with 10 seconds remaining.

"It's getting to that time of year where it's playoff hockey and everybody is playing a lot tighter now," said Panthers defenseman Mike Van Ryn, whose team has alternated wins and losses over its last 11 games. "I really don't think you're going to see a lot of chances from here on out. Any time you get a scoring chance you've got to bury it."

The Hurricanes have not lost at home to the Panthers in their last six meetings, recording five wins a tie. After hosting Florida, Carolina will embark on a five-game road trip and a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road.

STANDINGS: Panthers - 54 points, 4th place, 30 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 84 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 27 goals, 35 assists and 62 points; Chris Gratton, 88 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 36 goals and 76 points; Staal and Stillman, 40 assists; Mike Commodore, 90 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.4 percent (47 for 305), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (313 for 380), 15th. Hurricanes - Power play: 19.1 percent (74 for 388), 7th. Penalty killing: 82 percent (260 for 317), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (23-24-8, 4 SO, 2.94 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.09). Hurricanes - Cam Ward (12-5-2, 0, 3.42); Martin Gerber (28-9-2, 3, 2.73).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 25; Hurricanes, 4-3 (SO). At Sunrise, Fla., Anton Babchuk scored twice and Matt Cullen tallied a goal and two assists to lead the Hurricanes to the shootout victory.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 8-20-4 on the road; Hurricanes - 25-5-1 at home.

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