June 25, 2024

Hurricanes await to ambush and crash the Panthers with no mercy

There’s no let-up in this week’s schedule for the Carolina Hurricanes.

They host the Florida Panthers, the NHL’s top team after Tuesday’s action, in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday, just two nights after tangling with the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers.

The Panthers are being challenged, as well, with back-to-back road tests, passing the first of those with Tuesday night’s third-period comeback to win 4-3 at Dallas in a matchup of divisional leaders.

“A real character win to come back,” Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling said.

Carolina’s three-game winning streak ended with the 1-0 loss to the Rangers. It was just the second time this season that the Hurricanes failed to score and the first since Oct. 24 at Tampa Bay.

This will be the third Florida-Carolina meeting of the season. The Panthers won 5-2 on Nov. 10 at home and the Hurricanes got even with a 1-0 decision behind goalie Pyotr Kochetkov’s 45 saves on Feb. 22 in Raleigh.

Based on Carolina’s recent goalie rotation, it figures to be Frederik Andersen’s turn in net Thursday night. But Kochetkov has been strong recently, including in the loss to New York.

Frederik Andersen marks return to Hurricanes with win - ESPN

The Hurricanes had forward Jake Guentzel in the lineup for the first time Tuesday after he was acquired from Pittsburgh in a trade last week. He had been out for about a month because of an upper-body injury.

Guentzel, who was considered perhaps the biggest name on the trade market as the deadline approached, managed only one shot on goal while logging slightly more than 15 minutes of ice time.

“Hopefully get more next time,” he said of the production.

He played on a line with fellow Carolina newcomer Evgeny Kuznetsov and Martin Necas.

“They had the best chances of the night for us,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s going to take some time for everyone to get up to speed of what we’re doing. But overall, those guys might have been the best for us.”

Guentzel said it could be a good fit with Kuznetsov and Necas, who’s one of five players on the Carolina roster with 20 or more goals.

“Those two are high-end skill players,” Guentzel said. “For me, I’m just trying to find open ice and I know they’ll find me. I’m sure each game we’ll find some more chemistry.” The Panthers have won two in a row and they’re 5-1 in March.

Hurricanes dominate all phases, crush Devils 5-1 | Reuters

Florida has a newcomer among its forwards as well, with Kyle Okposo joining the team last week via a trade from Buffalo. The Panthers like how he has fit in so far after his debut with the team while logging about 10 1/2 minutes against the Stars.

“He is just a smart, cagy veteran,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “He made a lot of good plays (at Dallas). I like what he says on the bench. He’s very aware of what’s going on.” The Panthers hold the NHL’s best road record at 24-8-2. They’ve won their last four road outings since the loss last month at Carolina.

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