Hurricanes-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 17, 2011
It was 2 1/2 weeks ago that Carolina lost at home to Florida in Kirk Muller's debut as coach. Though the results have not always shown it, Muller believes his new team has improved since he took over. The Hurricanes look to win consecutive games for the first time in almost a month when they visit the Southeast Division-leading Panthers on Sunday. Carolina (10-18-5) lost 3-1 to Florida on Nov. 29 in Muller's first game since replacing the fired Paul Maurice. The Hurricanes followed that contest with three straight losses before their current 2-1-1 stretch to improve to 2-5-1 under Muller. "We're playing better without the puck," Muller told the Hurricanes' official website. "It's not perfect, but we're getting there. Everyone has to bring something. You can't just go out, jump over the boards and play the game." Carolina brought a strong effort in Thursday's 4-3 home win over Vancouver. Recently called up forward Drayson Bowman scored twice and Tuomo Ruutu added a goal with an assist as the Hurricanes won for just the second time in 11 games. The Hurricanes have not won two in a row since No. 20-21. "We never go away,'' Muller said. "We've been in every game. We haven't come up on the right side of the win column in some of them." The Hurricanes have managed to earn three points in their last three games without star Jeff Skinner, who leads the team with 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists). The reigning NHL rookie of the year remains out with what was determined to be a concussion. Bowman doubled his career goal total in his second game since being recalled from Charlotte of the AHL last Sunday. "Coming up from Charlotte, that's just what you hope to do - come in and bring whatever you can," he said. Though Carolina lost to the Panthers (17-9-6) last month, the Hurricanes have won the last two meetings at Florida following a four-game road skid in the series. Carolina's Cam Ward, who stopped 33 shots against Vancouver, has a 5.45 goals-against average while going 0-3-0 during his last four starts at Florida. He made 18 saves in last month's loss to the Panthers. "They can skate. It's a high-tempo team," Muller said of the Panthers. "They come after you, and if you're not ready, they're going to have the edge on you. The first game that I was here, I saw that. And that's what we have to be prepared for. They like a quick game." Shawn Matthias scored twice for the Panthers in the November victory over the Hurricanes. He had two assists as Florida snapped a three-game skid with a 3-2 shootout win over Calgary on Friday. Sean Bergenheim scored twice in regulation for the Panthers, who are 5-1-5 during a stretch of 11 consecutive home games decided by one goal. Stephen Weiss, who scored the winner in the shootout, has four goals and five assists in his last 11 games versus Carolina. Florida's Jose Theodore has a 2.77 GAA while winning four of his last five starts against the Hurricanes.
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