By Mike Lipka
Carolina (39-28-7) at Florida (35-27-10), 7:30 p.m. EDT
SUNRISE, Florida (AP) -- An impressive home winning streak has
put the Carolina Hurricanes in position for their first playoff
appearance since their run to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
A timely road victory Monday night would go a long way toward
them achieving that goal.
A win in Miami would give the Hurricanes a seven-point lead in
the Eastern Conference over the Florida Panthers, who are
desperately trying to reverse a late-season stumble and end a
nine-year playoff drought.
The Hurricanes (39-28-7) have been one of the league's hottest
teams during the past month, averaging more than four goals
while going 11-3-2 since Feb. 19.
Their home winning streak reached eight with a 4-1 victory over
Washington on Saturday night, as they scored three times in the
third period and Cam Ward stopped 31 shots. Coach Paul Maurice's
club plays five of its last eight at home.
While Carolina hasn't been as good on the road, going 0-1-2 on
its most recent trip, it will have added incentive to win
Monday. The ninth-place Panthers (35-27-10) trail their
Southeast Division rival by five points, but have two games in
"We're not secure yet, plus we want to play like we're building
toward something," Carolina's Erik Cole told the team's official
Web site. "We want to be playing a certain way heading into the
Cole has contributed to the Hurricanes' offensive outburst with
two goals and eight assists in nine games since being reacquired
from Edmonton. He spent his first six seasons with Carolina.
Veteran Rod Brind'Amour has also stepped up for the Hurricanes
with five goals and five assists in his last eight contests,
including a goal Saturday. Defensemen Joni Pitkanen, Anton
Babchuk and Joe Corvo also scored against the Capitals.
"Our defense has had a huge impact on how we play," Maurice
said. "You are seeing some offensive creativity."
The Panthers are badly in need of some scoring as they try to
reach the postseason for the first time since the 1999-2000
season. They've scored one or no goals three times in their last
six games, going 1-3-2 to fall out of playoff position.
Florida led 1-0 for most of the game against visiting Columbus
on Saturday, but the Blue Jackets scored three times in the
final three minutes for a 3-1 victory.
"I really thought we did a lot of things well tonight, other
than win," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "I don't have an
answer. We're not putting up any white flags, there's a lot of
The Panthers can move back into eighth place on Monday as they
trail Montreal by one point. Both teams have 10 games remaining.
In the final meeting between Carolina and Florida, the
Hurricanes will be looking to even a season series that has
favored the Panthers. Florida hasn't had offensive problems this
season against Carolina, scoring three goals or more in four of
the five matchups and winning three of them. Carolina has lost
both games in Miami.
The most recent meeting was the ugliest for the Hurricanes, who
lost 5-0 at home Feb. 12. Ward was pulled after giving up four
goals on 13 shots, the third time in 13 career starts against
Florida that he has been chased.
The Panthers' Tomas Vokoun has been considerably better versus
Carolina. He stopped 42 shots in that contest and is 3-0-1 with
a 1.48 goals-against average in his last four starts against the