Wild-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 22, 2012
The Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild are two of the league's lowest-scoring teams, and their offensive woes have contributed to recent skids which have hurt their postseason hopes. Florida looks to salvage the finale of a four-game homestand Thursday night against Minnesota, which has not scored more than one goal in a road game this month. The Panthers (27-20-11) are battling Washington, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division crown, with the possibility that the three teams who don't win it could all miss the playoffs. Florida hasn't helped its cause by getting outscored 10-3 and losing the first three on its homestand, including a 2-0 loss to Anaheim on Sunday. Jose Theodore, who played 32 games for Minnesota last season, had his second straight solid outing with 25 saves after a 39-save effort in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Capitals. The Panthers have scored more than two goals just twice in their last 10 home games, and they've had no more than three in eight of nine overall. "We need to find ways to score," coach Kevin Dineen said. "We're not creating enough on offense to get us two points at the end of the night." Minnesota (26-24-9) led the Western Conference on Dec. 18, but it has since gone 6-16-4 while averaging 1.8 goals and now is fighting to simply stay in the playoff race. They ended a seven-game losing streak with a 2-0 home win over Boston on Sunday as Niklas Backstrom had a career-high 48 saves. "Winning, that's fun, that's why you play, and we haven't had a lot of wins in the last couple of months, so sure it's been tough," said Backstrom, who has a 1.84 goals-against average over his last eight starts but has gone 3-3-2. "Hopefully this is a good start for something new. We'll try to enjoy this. We learned the last couple of months, you can't take anything for granted." The Wild have been limited to 12 goals in nine games in February, scoring just three in four road games. They're averaging 1.1 goals during a 2-11-3 slump away from home. Minnesota fell 4-0 at St. Louis on Saturday for its third straight road loss, but hopes the following day's win over the Northeast Division-leading Bruins has created some momentum. "It's been a tough stretch and it's important that we don't sit here and pat ourselves on the back too much," said Matt Cullen, who ended an eight-game pointless streak with his first goal since Jan. 10. "Certainly we'll enjoy it now. We're happy and we're proud of the way we played, but we have to continue to build. We have an uphill climb ahead of us." Mikko Koivu has missed the last two contests with an undisclosed injury, and coach Mike Yeo said it's unlikely the captain will play in Florida or at Dallas on Friday. "We likely won't bring him if he's not going to play," Yeo told the team's official website. "Odds are he won't be coming with us." Florida had lost seven straight to Minnesota before winning the last two meetings, including a 2-1 home victory Nov. 12, 2010, in the most recent matchup.
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