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Panthers, Wild clinging to fringe of playoff picture @NHLdotcom
PANTHERS (26-28-10) at WILD (31-28-5)

Last 10: Florida 3-6-1; Minnesota 4-5-1

Season series:
This is the only meeting this season. Last year, the Wild received 2 goals from Antti Miettinen and a goal and 4 assists from Mikko Koivu for 6-2 road win on Oct. 16, 2008. The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-7-1-0 all-time against the Wild.

Big story:
Both teams are clinging to fading playoff hopes. The Panthers are riding a two-game win streak but are faced with a tough task in trying to earn a win at the Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild sport one of the best home records in the League. Minnesota has lost two straight and three of its last four at home.

"We dug ourselves a little hole," Wild winger Guillaume Latendresse told the Star Tribune after Sunday's loss. "We worked hard to get ourselves in position where we can battle to get to those playoffs. It's still there. But we can't lose many more."

Team scope:

Florida begins a three-game road trip that will also take them to Colorado and San Jose. They are coming off a 4-1 victory at home against Carolina last Saturday.

Michael Frolik and Kamil Kreps scored in a 1:11 span of the first period, and goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves. Cory Stillman scored late in the third period, and Kreps added an empty-net goal to help Florida win its second straight game after a seven-game losing streak.

"We had a great first period, and that's how we want to play," coach Peter DeBoer told the Miami Herald. "This was the first game I felt in a long time that we had four legitimate lines playing the game we want to play."

Wild: Minnesota is closing a two-game home stand that began with a 5-2 loss against Calgary on Sunday.

Latendresse scored both goals for the Wild, who entered the game in 12th place in the West and dug themselves a bigger hole with the Flames and Detroit both winning Sunday.

"Definitely making it harder," coach Todd Richards said. "But I don't doubt this team, the players have shown over and over that dealing with adversity or bleak circumstances, they have been able to come through. I'm definitely not counting them out."

The Wild will be without Derek Boogaard, who is serving the finale of his two-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit on Ryan Jones last Friday in Edmonton.

Who's hot:
For the Panthers, Bryan McCabe has a goal and 8 assists in four games, Stephen Weiss has 3 goals in three games, David Booth has 2 goals and 4 assists in two games, and Stillman has a goal and 3 assists in three games. … For the Wild, Latendresse has 4 goals and an assist in four games, Koivu has a goal and 5 assists in five games, Kyle Brodziak has 2 goals and 2 assists in four games, and Andrew Brunette has 2 goals and 2 assists in four games.

Injury report:
For the Panthers, Nathan Horton (fractured leg) is on injured reserve. … For the Wild, Clayton Stoner (hernia) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) are on injured reserve, and Cal Clutterbuck (charley horse) is day-to-day.

Stat pack:
Minnesota has won the last seven games played against Florida, outscoring the Panthers 30-11. … Florida's next win will be the 500th in franchise history. The Panthers have a record of 499-530-142-91 (1,262 games). … Weiss is two goals away from 100 for his career. … Latendresse has 16 goals at Xcel Energy Center for Minnesota this season. Only two players have scored more at home -- Marian Gaborik had 28 in 2007-08, and Owen Nolan had 20 last season. … Sunday's game was the 400th consecutive home sellout for the Wild. … McCabe was named the NHL's Third Star for the week ending March 7. He scored 1-7-8 in three games.
Puck drop: "With what we did at the trade deadline, it's maybe loosened the guys up a little bit because obviously no one expects to win a lot down the stretch here. And the guys are anxious to prove people wrong." -- DeBoer to the Sun-Sentinel

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