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Panthers try to stay in race facing Hurricanes

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com

HURRICANES (28-37-11) at PANTHERS (35-27-15)

TV: FS-CR, FS-F

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Two nights after their playoff hopes were severely damaged, the Florida Panthers will be back in action Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-CR, FS-F).

The Panthers (35-27-15)?squandered a 2-1 third-period lead Tuesday in a 3-2 loss against the Boston Bruins to fall six points behind the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. After being 20 minutes away from moving to within two points of the Bruins, the Panthers will be eliminated from playoff contention Thursday if they lose in regulation and the Bruins beat the Detroit Red Wings.

Florida also trails the Ottawa Senators by three points, and Ottawa has a game in hand.

“We’re going to stay in the moment and we need a big win against Carolina,”???captain Willie Mitchell said after the morning skate Thursday. “We can’t control other people, what they’re doing. Obviously we put ourselves in this situation. What we control is what we do as a hockey club.”

The game against Carolina begins a season-ending five-game homestand for Florida that also includes a rematch April 9 against Boston.

The Panthers were 2-2-1 on their just-concluded five-game road trip, but squandered points in the standings by giving up the game-winning goal with 2:28 left in regulation against the Tampa Bay Lighting and with 1:09 left against the Bruins.

Gallant stopped the morning skate Thursday at one point to address his players, saying he detected a hangover effect from the Boston game.

“I???just told them ... don’t eliminate ourselves,”???Gallant said. “Let’s be ready to play, let’s be ready to work hard. It was a tough loss the other night, but you gotta move on. That’s what hockey is all about. You have a tough game, you have a tough loss, but we move on and we get ready for the next one.

“Keep playing, we work hard, win as many games as we can and if Boston goes on and wins the next two games or Ottawa and they eliminate us, then that’s fine. But win as many games as we can and make sure we don’t eliminate ourselves.”

Carolina (28-37-11), in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and eliminated from playoff contention, did not have a morning skate.

The Hurricanes are coming a 4-2 road loss Tuesday against the Washington Capitals Tuesday and a 2-1 overtime home loss Sunday against the Bruins.

Here are the projected lineups:

HURRICANES

Chris Terry - Eric Staal - Andrej Nestrasil

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner - Jay McClement - Alexander Semin

Brad Malone - Victor Rask - Patrick Dwyer

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

Michal Jordan - Ryan Murphy

John-Michael Liles - Danny Biega

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratched: Brett Bellemore

Injured: Riley Nash (concussion), Jack Hillen (concussion), Rasmus Rissanen (knee)

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Brandon Pirri - Vincent Trocheck - Jimmy Hayes

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Brad Boyes

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Steven Kampfer

Roberto Luongo

Dan Ellis

Scratched:?????????Alex Petrovic

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (back), Al Montoya (groin), Scottie Upshall (upper body)

Status report: Upshall took part in the morning skate after missing the game against Boston and Gallant said there was a chance he could play against Carolina. ... Bjugstad will attend a game for the first time since having surgery in Minnesota last week. ... Nash, who did not accompany the Hurricanes on their two-game road trip to Washington and Florida, will miss his third consecutive game.

Who’s hot: Khudobin is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against-average and a .972 save percentage against Florida. Khudobin stopped 106 of 109 shots in the three games, all of them coming during the 2013-14 season. ... Terry has a goal and two assists during a three-game point streak. ... Pirri’s goal against Boston on Tuesday gave him 18 in his past 25 games.

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