SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It’s been quite the roller coaster season for the Florida Panthers and their fans.
One week after a historically successful road trip put them in playoff position, the Panthers go into Tuesday’s contest against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes looking to avoid a winless four-game homestand.
The Panthers went 5-0-0 on a difficult trek that included games against five Western Conference playoff contenders, but dropped contests versus Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa in regulation since returning to the Sunshine State.
Florida averaged almost 37 shots in the three losses, including Sunday’s frustrating 2-1 setback against Ottawa, and is three points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re still in the race and there’s no reason to start feeling sorry for ourselves or get down,” Panthers center Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald on Monday. “We have to keep going. … Obviously being on a skid like this isn’t what we wanted, but we have to stay positive.”
The Hurricanes entertained hopes of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 a few weeks ago, but stumbled to a 1-5-1 record in the last seven games that pushed them into seller mode before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
“We made it easy on management, for sure,” Carolina coach Bill Peters told reporters after the 3-1 loss to Calgary on Sunday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Carolinas, FSN Florida
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (25-25-8): Carolina managed eight goals during their seven-game slump while tumbling to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Jeff Skinner reached 20 goals for the fifth time in seven NHL seasons and leads the team with 40 points – six better than fellow forward Victor Rask, who scored the only goal Sunday and has points in two straight after a 14-game drought.
Forwards Sebastian Aho (33 points) and Jordan Staal (32) also contribute, and defenseman Noah Hanifin had an assist Sunday – his first point since Jan. 13.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (28-23-10): Jonathan Marchessault carried much of the load lately, recording three goals in the last four games to reach 19 – two shy of team leader Vincent Trocheck, who is pointless on the homestand.
Trocheck leads the team with 42 points – five better than Marchessault and Aleksander Barkov, who boasts seven goals in nine contests.
James Reimer started four of the last six games in net, but veteran Roberto Luongo is expected to get the call Tuesday to go for his 453rd victory – which would put him one behind Curtis Joseph for fourth on the NHL’s all-time list.
- Carolina F Phil Di Giuseppe has three points in the last three games after posting two in his first 19 this season.
- Florida F Dennis Malgin was recalled from the AHL on Saturday and F Gregg McKegg got claimed on waivers by Tampa Bay on Monday.
- The Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 3-2 on Nov. 27 to snap a six-game losing streak in the series.
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