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Ducks hope to get on track against Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) - After losing an important battle in the race for the Pacific Division title, the Anaheim Ducks will try to rebound when they host the Florida Panthers in Sunday's test at the Honda Center.

The Ducks have had a couple of days to recover from Thursday's stinging road loss against the San Jose Sharks, who took over sole possession of the top spot in the Pacific with a 3-2 regulation win. San Jose has since extended that cushion to three points after Saturday's shootout loss against Washington.

At one point earlier in this season, Anaheim seemed poised to run away with the division crown but Bruce Boudreau's club has fallen on hard times in the second half of 2013-14.

The Ducks enter Sunday having lost two straight, six of eight and nine of their last 14 games to allow San Jose to take the lead in the Pacific race. However, Boudreau doesn't want his team feeling sorry for itself heading into Sunday's tilt with the Panthers.

"We don't have the luxury of having a letdown right now," Anaheim's head coach cautioned.

Joe Thornton was involved in all three San Jose goals on Thursday, scoring once and assisting on the other two as the Sharks rallied to beat the visiting Ducks.

Thornton scored 8:11 into the third period to tie the score at 2-2 and sent a puck on net from the left boards that Brent Burns deflected in for the winner with 3:59 remaining.

"It was a pretty even game," Boudreau said after the loss. "A bounce goes their way and it goes in. A bounce doesn't go our way and it doesn't go in. It's a tough game, but that's what happens when you have two good teams going at it."

Mathieu Perreault and Teemu Selanne scored for the Ducks, while Frederik Andersen gave up three goals on 28 shots.

Jonas Hiller expects to start Sunday's game for the Ducks and the veteran goaltender is 3-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and .969 save percentage in three career games against Florida.

Anaheim is home for Sunday's tilt before heading out on a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Calgary. Although the Ducks boast an excellent 24-7-4 home record this season they have dropped four straight in Orange County since beating Carolina 5-3 on March 2.

The Ducks had won three straight in the series with Florida before the Panthers notched a 3-2 regulation win on home ice back on Nov. 12. The Panthers scored three unanswered goals to defeat Anaheim for only the second time in the last seven meetings. Andersen took the loss for the Ducks in the setback, allowing all three goals on 25 shots.

Anaheim is 2-0-1 with a tie in its last four home tilts versus Florida.

Sitting 19 points out of a playoff spot, the Panthers are simply playing out the string. The club lost for the sixth time in eight outings on Saturday when it dropped a 4-0 decision in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Quick made 24 saves to blank Florida and Roberto Luongo allowed all four goals on 25 shots in the loss.

"They are a big, physical team, they play well, they play strong, and they have four strong lines," Florida head coach Peter Horachek said. "I think we need to do better, the mistakes that we made were in the zone, the way we handled those, we gave them two and we did not capitalize on any other opportunities that we had."

Florida fell to 13-22-3 on the road this season. The Panthers are capping a four-game road on Sunday before playing the first of three straight at home on Tuesday against Ottawa.