Panthers eye season series sweep of Avalanche

( - The Florida Panthers will try to post a third straight victory and sweep the two-game season series against Colorado, as they welcome the Avalanche for Friday's clash at the BB&T Center.

The Panthers have won two in a row for the first time since a season-best five-game winning streak from Dec. 10-19. Florida closed a three-game road trip with consecutive victories, notching a 5-1 win Monday in Pittsburgh to halt the Penguins' franchise-record home winning streak at 13 games and then posted a 4-3 regulation decision the following night in Buffalo.

On Friday, Florida hopes to build off its back-to-back wins and close the 2013-14 regular season with a 2-0 record against Colorado. The Panthers surprised the Avalanche with a 4-1 win in Denver on Nov. 16, with Tim Thomas anchoring the upset by stopping 32-of-33 shots.

The November road win pushed Florida's record in the last six meetings against Colorado to 4-1-1 and the Panthers have taken the last three encounters on home ice.

Florida scored three times in the first period of Tuesday's win over the Sabres, but Nick Bjugstad's second-period tally proved to be the game-winner.

Jesse Winchester, Sean Bergenheim and Ed Jovanovski scored the first-period goals for Florida and Thomas made 32 saves to earn the win.

"It was good to get this win, good for the whole team," said Thomas. "Back-to- back wins are what we need right now and it gives some of the young guys here some confidence in what they're doing."

Florida is only home for tonight's tilt before heading back on the road for a four-game swing. The Panthers, who are 10-10-4 at home and 10-13-3 on the road, will begin their trek with Sunday's game in Detroit.

Colorado hopes to get back on track tonight after having a four-game winning streak snapped in Tuesday's 5-2 home loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Avs are still 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and are six points behind St. Louis for second place in the Central Division.

The Avs fell behind 2-0 to the Maple Leafs in the first period and were down 4-0 just over five minutes into the second period.

Nathan MacKinnon scored both goals for the Avalanche in Tuesday's loss and Semyon Varlamov was pulled early in the second period after giving up three goals on 20 shots. Jean-Sebastien Giguere allowed one goal on 20 shots the rest of the way.

"We got ourselves into too big of a hole and we can't do that with a team like this," said Avs forward PA Parenteau.

Although Colorado had a four-game overall winning streak halted on Tuesday, the club can record a fourth consecutive road win tonight. The Avs are 14-6-2 as the guest this season and are kicking off a three-game road trip on Friday. The swing will continue tomorrow in Tampa Bay before closing Monday in Dallas.

The Avs expect to have veteran winger Alex Tanguay back tonight for the first time since Nov. 2. Tanguay has been out for nearly three months with hip and knee injuries he recently made a full return to practice and expects to be activated from injured reserve on Friday.

Aleksander Barkov is questionable for Florida on Friday after suffering a lower-body injury in Tuesday's win over the Sabres. The second overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has eight goals and 24 points in 50 games as a rookie.