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Panthers return home eager for rematch vs. Coyotes

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com

COYOTES (3-4-1) at PANTHERS (2-2-3)

TV: FS-A, FS-F

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers will be playing at home Thursday for the first time in 17 days. Their recent four-game, nine-day road trip largely was a success, although it ended with an overtime loss Saturday.

As fate would have it, the Panthers' first game at BB&T?Center since Oct. 13 will be against the team that defeated them four nights ago, the Arizona Coyotes.

"That game on Saturday is still not sitting well with us,"???defenseman Erik Gudbranson said of the Panthers' 2-1 loss in Glendale, Ariz. "Obviously the best possible situation is to face them again and get back at them and give them a good game. For us it's really good. We're excited to play them. We're anxious to play them and we should have a good one."

Florida went 2-0-2 on its road trip, with two games decided in overtime, another in a shootout and the fourth a 1-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 17 to start the trip.

"It was a good road trip overall and [we get]???a little rematch against the Coyotes [Thursday]. Looking forward to it,"???center Nick Bjugstad said. "It didn't end the way we wanted it to end the other night but I???thought we played well overall. Everyone played pretty well on that road trip."

The Coyotes defeated the Panthers on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson's power-play goal. Arizona was 2-for-8 on the power play and Florida failed on its two power-play opportunities.

The Panthers, who had three days off before the start of their road trip and four afterward, have played seven games, the fewest in the NHL.

"It's been a good thing for us,"???Gudbranson said. "We've been able to work on our systems in practice, having good practice time, and I???think we've rallied around that obviously. Having that practice [time], being able to come together during those times is huge. All be on the same page and be able to put a good product out on the ice. It's been to our advantage for sure."

The Coyotes, who did not hold a morning skate Thursday, will be looking to rebound after a 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

Arizona has lost four of five, its only victory during that stretch being the game against Florida. The Coyotes are 6-0-1 in their last seven against the Panthers, including four straight.

"They've come home from a road trip, they've been sitting there waiting,"???Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of the Panthers. "We know them from playing them a couple of games ago. It was a real competitive game. Our power play came through for us so we expect the same [Thursday]."

Goalie Mike Smith, who was pulled in the third period Tuesday after giving up six goals on 33 shots, is expected to start for the Coyotes. He is 4-0-0 with a 1.06 goals-against average in his past four games against Florida.

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Sam Gagner - Martin Hanzal - Shane Doan

Brandon McMillan - Justin Hodgman - B.J. Crombeen

Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Chipchura - Martin Erat

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

David Schlemko - Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Chris Summers, Joe Vitale

Injured: David Moss (upper body)

PANTHERS

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Tomas Fleischmann - Brandon Pirri - Jussi Jokinen

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Colby Robak, Jimmy Hayes

Injured: Dave Bolland (lower body)

Status report: Bolland will miss his fourth consecutive game. Coach Gerard Gallant said Bolland was day-to-day and wouldn't rule him out of the Panthers' next game, Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. ... Upshall was the only healthy Panthers player not to take part in the optional morning skate, prompting Luongo to joke that it was an "Upshall-nal." ... Moss (upper body) will miss his third consecutive game. He's listed as week-to-week. ... Hodgman, who scored against the Panthers on Saturday in his NHL?????????debut, will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Tampa Bay Lightning. ... Tippett said he was reuniting Ekman-Larsson and Michalek as a defense pairing in the hopes of "stabilizing"?????????Ekman-Larsson, who has a Coyotes-worst minus-11 rating.

Who's hot:?????????After being a healthy scratch in Florida's first four games, Pirri has scored in each of the past two games. ... Boyes has four points in his past four games after beginning the season with no points in the first three. ... Ekman-Larsson has a two-game point streak and had a point in six of the Coyotes' eight games.

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