PANTHERS (18-22-7) at HURRICANES (19-18-9)
7:00 PM ET; TV: FOX Sports Network; RADIO: 560 AM
Last 10: Florida 4-4-2; Carolina 5-4-1
HELLO OLD FOE: The two teams will meet for the 104th time but this time it will be just a little different. Now in different divisions with the Panthers in the Northeast and the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan, the two teams were division rivals in the Southeast dating back to the formation of the division in 1998-99. Each team has been dominant on home ice since the Panthers entered the league but they did split their four games on home ice last season (each 1-1).
FAST START NEEDED: On Tuesday, the Panthers scored 32 seconds in on their way to a 3-0 first period lead. On Thursday, the Sharks swarmed the Cats, outshooting the home team 21-8 in the opening 20 but thanks to Tim Thomas it was a 0-0 game. They'll need an effort much like Tuesday where they were the attacking team from puck drop, especially in a building (PNC Arena) that they've had trouble winning in to get the fans out of the game early.
STALL THE STAALS: Over the years it's been captain Eric Staal that has often given the Panthers fits but after a trade at the draft two summers ago, Florida has had to deal with not only Eric but his brother Jordan as well. Eric has led the way both on the ice and off, currently tied for first on the team in points with 35 (10-25-35) while brother Jordan is tied for third with 24 (10-14-24).
THE CAPTAIN'S TIME: Making his season debut six games ago on Jan. 4 against Nashville, Ed Jovanovski has eased his way back in after missing almost 10 months of action. The Panthers captain has seen his time average around 15-16 minutes a game but he's seeing a lot more power play and penalty kill time. Jovo Cop brought the offense on Tuesday with his first two points (both assists) in the 4-2 victory over the NY Islanders.
PROVIDING SUPPORT: It hasn't happened often of late as netminder Tim Thomas has played exceptionally over the last month and a half but Thomas gave up three goals against the Sharks on Tuesday despite finishing with 36 stops. It was just the second time in the last 10 games that the netminder allowed more than two goals (6-2-2). He's been a rock between the pipes but he'll need the help from the offense as they have scored more than one goal just twice in their last seven games.