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Panthers make changes to try to match Rangers speed

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com

RANGERS (14-3-2) at PANTHERS (8-8-3)

TV: MSG+, FS-F

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are going back to their speed lineup for their game against the New York Rangers at BB&T Center on Saturday night.

Speedy forwards Quinton Howden and Rocco Grimaldi will be back in the lineup to help the Panthers try to match the speed of the Rangers.

“They’re one of the fastest teams in the league,”���Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said after an optional morning skate. “They’re a great team. They score a lot of goals. They don’t give up much. We’ve got to play well, that’s all.”

Howden and Grimaldi will replace Garrett Wilson and veteran Shawn Thornton, who played Thursday when the Panthers needed more of a physical presence against the bigger Anaheim Ducks.

The Panthers lost 3-1 against the Ducks, ending a two-game winning streak that consisted of a home-and-home sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Florida scored only two goals on 43 shots in its past two games.

“We just don’t put enough pucks to the net,”���Gallant said. “You want to score goals and guys want to make their plays. It’s about making the right decisions. I can’t tell them when to pass it, when to shoot it. They’ve got to make their own decisions and hopefully they’re good results.”

Roberto Luongo will make his seventh consecutive start in net for Florida (8-8-3). After a stretch he described as disappointing, Luongo stopped 77 of 79 shots the past two games.

“Louie is going to be a beast for us in net again tonight,”���defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “We’re going to need him.”

The Rangers swept the three-game series with the Panthers each of the past two seasons, winning last season 5-2 at BB&T���Center and 6-3 and 2-1 at Madison Square Garden.

Florida’s last victory against the Rangers was a 3-2 win at BB&T���Center on April 23, 2013.

“It’s a new year,”���Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. “That’s the way to think about it. We know it’s a good team, but we’ve just got to be ready for it and get a good start.”

The Rangers, who had their nine-game win streak snapped Thursday with a 2-1 road loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, did not hold a morning skate.

The Rangers (14-3-2)���practiced at BB&T���Center on Friday and coach Alain Vigneault said afterward he would keep the same lines as the Tampa Bay game.

“There’s no doubt that everybody was disappointed about last night’s result,” Vigneault said Friday. “I don’t expect the guys to be happy about the result, but I do think we played a pretty good game.”

Here are the projected lines:

RANGERS

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg

Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: None

Scratched:���������Dylan McIlrath, Emerson Etem

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Brandon Pirri - Vincent Trocheck - Rocco Grimaldi

Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Dave Bolland

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Dmitry Kulikov (lower body)

Scratched:���������Shawn Thornton, Garrett Wilson

Status Report: Kulikov, who will miss his third game, is expected to be out at least another full week. ... MacKenzie, Campbell, Mitchell and Kulikov were the only Florida players who did not skate Saturday morning. ... Yandle will play in his 599th NHL���������game. ... The Rangers’ good fortune with injuries continues. They have a total of four man games lost this season. ... Girardi is one game away from tying James Patrick for 13th place on the Rangers’ all-time list (671) and for fifth place among defensemen.

Who's Hot: Luongo had a shutout streak of 111:43 before allowing a goal in the second period against Anaheim on Thursday. ... Huberdeau has five points (one goal, four assists) in the past six games. ... Florida is tied for first in the NHL���������with the Boston Bruins with 11 power-play goals at home. ... Lundqvist is the second goalie in Rangers history (John Ross Roach in 1930-31) to allow two goals or less in at least 10 consecutive road appearances. ... Zuccarello has 15 points (six goals, nine assists)���������������������������in the last 13 games.

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