The first-place Florida Panthers will try to post just their second win in March when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in a Southeast Division clash today at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers lead the division by just one point over Washington and they haven't helped their cause with a 1-3-1 record this month. Florida could use a victory today to ensure that it stays ahead of the Capitals, who are hosting Toronto on Sunday.
Florida has lost two in a row, but was able to earn a point in Friday's road game against the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Panthers held a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes against the Pens, but Steve Sullivan tied the early in the third period and James Neal eventually won the contest in the shootout. It was the eight straight win for the Penguins overall and their sixth in a row on home ice.
Neal began the shootout with a tally against Jose Theodore and Evgeni Malkin backed it up with a goal on his chance. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Wojtek Wolski and Mikael Samuelsson's shot sailed wide of the net to end the game.
"We can walk out of here knowing we played a good team, we played extremely hard and we gave ourselves a really good chance to win," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen.
Tomas Fleischmann scored the lone goal for the Panthers, while Theodore ended with 33 saves.
Today's test marks the start of a four-game homestand for Florida, which is 16-9-8 as the host this season.
The Panthers expect to get leading scorer Kris Versteeg back at some point during this homestand and he is questionable for tonight. Versteeg, who is pacing Florida with 22 goals and 49 points, has sat out the last six games with a lower-body injury. Forward Jack Skille is also questionable after suffering an upper-body injury in Friday's game.
Carolina, which is seven points out of a playoff spot in the East, earned a 4-2 win Saturday in Tampa and the Hurricanes are 2-0-1 so far on a five-game road trip. Carolina is still just 9-14-9 as the guest this year.
Jeff Skinner netted two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, for the Hurricanes at Tampa Times Forum. Skinner's game-winner came at 6:36 of the third period when he ripped a wrist shot off the crossbar and in to give Carolina a 3-2 edge.
"It was a big game for us," Skinner said. " He (Ward) is seeing the puck well and playing really well for us. My line played really well too."
Carolina forwards Jiri Tlusty (upper body) and Anthony Stewart (undisclosed) left Saturday's game and are questionable for today. Forward Drayson Bowman sat out against the Lightning with a sinus infection and is also questionable.
Florida has won all three meetings against the Hurricanes this year, but the last two wins came after regulation. The clubs have split the last eight encounters overall and Carolina has dropped five of seven in Sunrise.