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SUNRISE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Panthers have won three of their last four games and are looking to continue that trend as they play their next four games at home.
The Panthers have reached the Stanley Cup playoffs once in the past 15 years, but are playing as if they want to rejoin the party as they host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday in the second contest of their five-game homestand.
Florida completed a home-and-home sweep of Tampa Bay with a 1-0 victory Tuesday and are hanging tough in the Atlantic Division, where five points separate the second- through eighth-place clubs.
“Lucky, lucky, lucky,” the Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad told reporters Tuesday after his shot with 20 seconds left bounced off Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman’s skate and into the net. “I’m just happy to get that win, happy to have some momentum on our side, and hopefully we keep it rolling on these rest days and get into Thursday and play well.”
Anaheim is 1-2-2 since starting November on a four-game winning streak which included a 3-2 shootout victory over Florida on Nov. 4.
The Ducks fell to 2-6-1 on the road – scoring 11 goals in those contests, but six in the last two – following a 3-2 loss in Nashville on Tuesday that left Bruce Boudreau optimistic.
“If you get that kind of effort every game, you’re going to win an awful lot more games than you’re going to lose,” Boudreau told reporters.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Prime Ticket, FSN San Diego (Anaheim), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE DUCKS (6-9-4): Anaheim and Philadelphia have scored the fewest goals in the NHL with 34, but the Ducks seem to have a more pressing issue: Goaltending.
Frederik Andersen (3-6-4, 2.48 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) lost his third straight game Tuesday (0-1-2) after allowing three goals on 10 shots – including an embarrassing one from the neutral zone – and was relieved by Anton Khudobin (3-3-0, 2.44, .917), who is responsible for Anaheim’s last two victories.
Left wing Nick Ritchie, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is pointless in two games since being called up from San Diego of the American Hockey League while averaging 10:21 of ice time and took a pair of penalties Tuesday with one leading to a power-play goal.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (8-7-3): Center Aleksander Barkov returned Tuesday after missing 10 games with a broken right hand and played 20:52 while reunited on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr.
Speaking of Jagr, the 43-year-old marvel shares the team lead in goals (seven) with Vincent Trocheck and has 729 for his career – two shy of Marcel Dionne for fourth all-time and 12 behind Brett Hull for third.
Roberto Luongo (6-6-2, 2.35, .926) is expected to make his sixth straight start after winning his 407th game Monday, moving into a tie for eighth with Glenn Hall on the all-time list.
- Anaheim leads the NHL in penalty killing (62-for-69) after extinguishing all six opportunities Tuesday and has killed its last 15.
- Jagr and Trocheck also lead the team in shooting percentage at 23.7.
- Ducks RW Corey Perry has a team-best five goals and shares the team lead in assists with six, but hasn’t recorded a point in the first two contests of the four-game road trip.
The Panthers face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, November 19th at 7:30 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.
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