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Panthers to get Gudbranson back against Hurricanes

by Eric Goodman

HURRICANES (31-32-9) at PANTHERS (27-38-8)


Last 10: Carolina 4-6-0; Florida 3-6-1

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. The Hurricanes defeated the Panthers in the two previous games at PNC Arena with right wing Alexander Semin scoring both game-winners.

Big story: The Hurricanes and Panthers seek to end the season on a strong note. Carolina is holding on to slim hopes for a 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff berth, while Florida has been eliminated from postseason contention. The Hurricanes can extend their winning streak against the Panthers to four games.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina has a lot of ground to make up in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining on its schedule. The Hurricanes won two of three on their three-game road trip last week before returning home and surrendering four first-period goals to the New York Islanders in a 5-4 loss Tuesday.

The slow start had many Hurricanes searching for answers.

"It’s unexplainable at this point. The feeling we had and effort we had – that’s not our game or our preparation," defenseman Jay Harrison said. "We clearly weren't ready to go, and that's unacceptable. The accountability within the room is coming to a point where this can't be tolerated."

Panthers: Florida expects to have defenseman Erik Gudbranson back in the lineup Thursday after he missed the past nine games with a knee injury. His return will give the Panthers a glimpse of what to expect for the future when they play out the final string of the 2013-14 season with seven home games out of the remaining nine.

"I think it starts now. The environment here needs to change," Gudbranson told the Florida Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday. "We need to become winners here. I think for these last nine games pushing ourselves to the limit and going out and playing well, playing hard, playing together, is going to be a huge factor for next year.

Who's hot: Semin has three goals in the past three games for the Hurricanes. ... Panthers rookie center Vincent Trocheck will try for a three-game scoring streak Thursday; he has a goal and an assist in his past two games.

Injury report: The Hurricanes have no reported injuries. ... Panthers right wing Tomas Kopecky (concussion) is out, as is defenseman Alex Petrovic (upper body), and forwards Aleksander Barkov (knee) and Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body).

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