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27-20-11

Ducks-Panthers Preview

AP - Sports

The Anaheim Ducks have put 2011 behind them and hope it's not too late to make a push for a postseason spot.

If the Florida Panthers fail to win their division, they might find themselves on the outside looking in.

Anaheim looks to earn a point for the ninth consecutive game Sunday night when it visits Florida, which has lost two straight to see its Southeast lead threatened.

The Ducks (24-24-10) have gone 14-3-4 since the calender turned to move into contention for a Western Conference playoff berth. They fell 3-2 in a shootout at New Jersey on Friday, but extended their point streak (5-0-3) to eight games, including a 3-0-2 start to an eight-game road trip.

Ryan Getzlaf appeared to score in overtime off an assist from defenseman Luca Sbisa, but the referees concluded Getzlaf used a kicking motion.

Sbisa said Anaheim knows what's at stake during the final part of the season.

"A big part of (the recent hot streak) is confidence, but we were in a similar position last year and we somehow managed to battle through it," Sbisa told the team's official website. "A few weeks back we started realizing that if we want to make the playoffs, we need to make a push. With it happening last year, we kind of have that experience and we know how to handle games at this time of the year."

Jonas Hiller made his 17th consecutive start and has gone 11-2-4 with a 1.79 goals-against average in that span. He's won both of his career starts with one shutout and a 1.50 GAA against Florida, which is coming off a 2-1 loss to Washington on Friday.

The Panthers (27-19-11) fell 6-2 to Ottawa in the opener of their four-game homestand on Wednesday, then were outshot 41-23 in a lackluster effort against the Capitals, who picked up two key points to get closer to Florida.

In the weak Southeast, those could be the difference between being the East's No. 3 seed and being out of the playoffs entirely.

"When you have a lead you at least want a point out of it, but we found a way to lose tonight," leading scorer Kris Versteeg said. "It's a regular-season game, obviously, two teams trying to get to the playoffs, it was definitely an intense game."

The Panthers took six penalties.

"We got into penalty trouble in the third and couldn't stave off all those opportunities they were given,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "That was the difference in the hockey game.''

Jose Theodore made 39 saves starting in place of Scott Clemmensen, who allowed four goals on 16 shots before being pulled midway through the second period in the loss to Ottawa.

It is unclear who will start Sunday, though Theodore has won his last three starts with a 1.95 GAA versus Anaheim.

Hiller made 29 saves while Getzlaf and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win over Florida on Dec. 1, 2010. Perry has a goal in four straight games against the Panthers, while Getzlaf has scored in three of those.

The Panthers have won four of five in the series.

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