SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers return home on Thursday to face an opponent that they haven’t beaten in seven years.
The Columbus Blue Jackets continued their dominance over the Panthers earlier this week when they defeated the Cats 2-1 to halt their latest losing streak at six.
The Blue Jackets can make it 10 straight over the revenge-minded Panthers in the opener of a two-game trip.
Columbus (7-15-2) ended a 0-5-1 slide Monday with a 2-1 home win over Florida. Boone Jenner scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and Matt Calvert had the other tally for the Blue Jackets, who entered the contest winning only two of their previous 17 games.
“The guys stepped up tonight,” coach Todd Richards said. “This feeling of winning is way better than losing.”
Columbus extended its win streak over Florida (10-7-6), which hasn’t won in this series since a 5-2 victory Nov. 21, 2007. The Panthers are coached by former Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant.
Gallant saw his team immediately bounce back with Tuesday’s 4-3 win at Detroit. Vincent Trocheck recorded the first three-point game of his career with his second goal of the season as the Panthers built a three-goal lead and held on.
“We got some character guys and you build off that,” Gallant said. “Last night was disappointing and I’m glad they bounced back the way they did.”
Roberto Luongo made 38 saves in Detroit as he returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury.
The line of Trocheck, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri combined for five points Tuesday after having none against the Blue Jackets.
“We have a lot of chemistry now,” Trocheck said. “Me and big [Hayes] on my right side, he’s going to the net hard and that creates a lot of room and a lot of opportunities and Pirri’s just a great playmaker out there so to have those two on my wing, it kind of makes it a little easier on me.”
One difference for this rematch could be if Luongo starts as opposed to Al Montoya, who had 21 saves Monday. Luongo is 5-1-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average in his last seven starts against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, however, made 24 saves Monday to improve to 6-0-0 with a 1.81 GAA in his last six starts versus Florida. He has won all three on the road against the Panthers.
“As a group, we were better in front of him than in games past, where he’s facing 35 shots and there’s lots of traffic and we’re spending 40 seconds in our own zone,” Richards said. “We did a better job.”
Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair groin and abdominal injuries to add to the team’s lengthy injury list. Columbus has 161 man-games lost to date to after having 292 all of last season.
Florida winger Scottie Upshall has not played since suffering a lower-body injury Nov. 24 while center Dave Bolland has been out with a lower-body injury since Oct. 17. Both are expected back soon.
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