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Panthers wrap up Western trip vs. Ducks

by Sean McCullen

PANTHERS (26-37-8) at DUCKS (45-18-7)


Last 10: Florida 3-6-1; Anaheim 4-4-2

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks. Florida beat Anaheim 3-2 at BB&T Center on Nov. 12 to snap a nine-game losing streak.

Big story: Anaheim has been off since Thursday, when the Ducks fell out of first place in the Pacific Division for the first time since early December with a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, who jumped into the division's top spot. With 97 points, the Ducks are in third place in the Western Conference, four points behind the St. Louis Blues. They are three points behind San Jose for first place in the division but have two games in hand.

Florida is 15th in the Eastern Conference and is not in the mix for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida is 1-2-0 on its four-game trip out West after a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The Panthers have lost three of their past four games, all against Western Conference opponents, scoring at total of seven goals in that span.

"I think the West is obviously a bigger, stronger division," coach Peter Horachek said. "The systems are tighter; defensively they're better. The teams out here in California are all very skilled but big."

Goalie Roberto Luongo, who was acquired March 4 in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks, has started all three games on the trip. Backup Dan Ellis, who has not played since he allowed five goals in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 13, could get the start against Anaheim.

Ducks: The loss at San Jose left Anaheim with a 3-4-2 record in March.

The suddenly slumping Ducks could turn things around in an upcoming stretch of games against lesser opponents. The game against Florida is the first of nine in a row in which Anaheim will play teams that would not have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season ended Saturday, including three against the Edmonton Oilers.

"It is huge for us," coach Bruce Boudreau said of the game against the Panthers, according to the Ducks website. "We thought we played a pretty good game in San Jose and came up with nothing. Florida has already beaten us once. They're going to come in with confidence. We have to be strong enough mentally to pull through this."

Who's hot: Panthers right wing Jimmy Hayes has four goals and three assists in the past eight games. … Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has five assists in the past four games. Center Mathieu Perreault has three goals in the past four games.

Injury report: Florida forwards Tomas Kopecky (concussion), Aleksander Barkov (knee) and defenseman Alex Petrovic (upper body) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson (knee) and center Jesse Winchester (lower body) are out indefinitely. Left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body) has missed the past two games. … Anaheim center Nick Bonino (lower body) returned to practice after missing the San Jose game, but is questionable. Left wing Matt Beleskey (illness) did not play Thursday. Defenseman Cam Fowler (knee) is out.

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