Panthers Hoping Homestand Helps Turn Around Recent Slide

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SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Florida Panthers open a three-game homestand against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, but that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the club’s postseason chances.

The Panthers have dropped four of their last five games overall (1-3-1) and will be seeking their first regulation victory at home since Feb. 3.

Florida earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss at Philadelphia on Thursday but saw netminder Roberto Luongo depart with a lower-body injury after the first period.

“It’s pretty much the same thing,” coach Tom Rowe said Luongo, who has dealt with a nagging groin injury. “It’s real basic. I don’t think it’s going to be anything long term.” Luongo’s injury puts James Reimer in line to face Dallas, which wrapped up a 3-2-0 homestand with a 5-4 setback to the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Stars are in 11th place in the Western Conference as they approach a grueling part of the schedule featuring 12 of their next 15 games on the road.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Dallas), FSN Florida

ABOUT THE STARS (25-29-10): Injuries have ravaged Dallas and the latest to hit involved forward Antoine Roussel, who suffered a hand injury Thursday that is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, effectively ending his season. Forward Ales Hemsky sidelined since Oct. 22 due to hip surgery, returned to the lineup Thursday, wound up getting hit by a shot and faced further evaluation. “I took the blocked shot, and I was a little slower, but overall my legs felt pretty good,” Hemsky said.

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (29-23-11): Thursday’s loss had Rowe second-guessing his strategy, with newly acquired Thomas Vanek not getting a chance in the shootout despite converting all five attempts in the format this season. “He’s unbelievable. He may move into that top rotation,'” Rowe said. “The other guys have been doing such a good job for us I thought I’d give them another crack at it.” Reimer carries a 3-0-0 record and 2.25 goals-against average versus Dallas into Saturday’s start.

OVERTIME

1. The Panthers have killed off all 19 penalties over the past nine games.

2. Stars captain Jamie Benn scored twice Thursday and has seven goals and 14 points in his last 10 games.

3. Florida recalled G Reto Berra on an emergency basis from Springfield of the American Hockey League.

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