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SUNRISE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Florida Panthers look to go into the playoffs with a victory when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday in the finale of their best regular season in franchise history.
The Panthers have won 46 games and posted 101 points for the first time to win their second division title while awaiting the top wild-card team in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Aleksander Barkov will attempt to extend his point streak (five goals, seven assists) to nine games playing alongside 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr, whose 27 goals are his most in the NHL since 2006-07.
The Panthers hope to boost an already strong home record (24-11-5) after seeing their four-game winning streak end at Ottawa on Thursday.
The Hurricanes have shown improvement this season with five more victories and attempt to finish strong after a disappointing 4-2 loss to Montreal in their home finale Thursday.
“We’ve played the right way, we’ve played hard, we’ve played quick,” Carolina coach Bill Peters told reporters. “(Thursday), we weren’t able or willing. … We want to make sure we’re able to play the game properly on Saturday.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Carolina), FSN Sun (Florida)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (35-30-16): Leading scorer Jeff Skinner has two goals and two assists in the last four games and is two short of his third 30-goal season in six years. Jordan Staal looks to snap a nine-game goal drought and reach 20 for the fifth time in his career and first since 2011-12 while Victor Rask is two points from his first season with 50. Cam Ward, a pending unrestricted free agent, may have played his last game with Carolina on Thursday as Eddie Lack (12-13-6, 2.77 goals-against) could get the call Saturday.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (46-26-9): Jagr, who has a team-best 65 points, and Jonathan Huberdeau have each posted 10 points in the last eight contests. Center Nick Bjugstad is starting to warm up at the right time with two goals and an assist to go along with 19 shots on net in four games this month but linemate Reilly Smith (24 goals) has not scored in seven straight contests. Steven Kampfer suffered a lower-body injury Thursday and the Panthers recalled fellow defenseman Mike Matheson, a first-round pick in 2012.
1. The Panthers have won five straight meetings and boast three shutouts in that span.
2. Carolina C Derek Ryan suffered an upper-body injury Thursday and is questionable for the finale.
3. Florida F Jussi Jokinen has gone six games without a point – five of them without his regular C Vincent Trocheck (lower body).