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20-18-9

Panthers-Hurricanes Preview

AP - Sports

After failing to score in back-to-back contests, the Carolina Hurricanes are looking to jump-start their offense.

The Florida Panthers hadn't come up empty in 2 1/2 months until their last time out.

Carolina tries to avoid being shut out in three consecutive games for the first time Saturday night against the visiting Panthers as these former Southeast Division rivals square off.

The Hurricanes (19-18-9) had averaged 4.0 goals during a season-best five-game winning streak before falling 3-0 at Columbus last Friday. They went on to open a three-game homestand with a similar result, falling 2-0 to Calgary on Monday.

Carolina hadn't been handed consecutive shutouts since Nov. 16-18, 2011, but has now had four days off to prepare in hopes of avoiding three straight for the first time in franchise history.

"We're rested and we worked on stuff," coach Kirk Muller told the team's official website. "Now, (we have to) go out, get back on track and take care of the things we can control. What we can control is how we play, and that starts (Saturday)."

Carolina, 6-15-7 when scoring two goals or fewer, is kicking off a stretch in which it plays seven games in 11 days.

"We had a good couple practices this week, a good pace, good battle level and good tempo," said captain Eric Staal, who has one goal in his last nine games. "For me, it's good to let that kind of rest this week and look forward to a big stretch drive before the break."

The Hurricanes are 23rd in the NHL with 2.4 goals per game, five spots ahead of a Florida team averaging 2.2. The Panthers (18-22-7) have had an especially rough time on the power play, going 15 for 156 (9.6 percent) to rank last in the league. They are scoreless in their last 25 chances on the man advantage.

Sitting in 15th place in the Eastern Conference, Florida saw its woes continue Thursday in a 3-0 loss to San Jose. It was the first time the Panthers were shut out since a 4-0 loss to St. Louis on Nov. 1.

"We weren't ready to play," interim coach Peter Horachek told the NHL's official website. "Not very happy with that. ... We just didn't perform for 60 minutes. That's a problem, I guess. We weren't very happy with that. Right now we have to deal with it and learn something from it and move on to the next game."

Tim Thomas made 36 saves as the Panthers were outshot 39-24. He's 2-2-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average over his last five starts.

"Obviously not happy that they were taking it to us pretty hard and they were the team that was ready to play and we weren't," Thomas said.

Carolina's Cam Ward has missed the last six games with a lower-body injury, leaving his status for Saturday in doubt. Anton Khudobin, who made 27 saves against the Flames, has gone 4-2-0 with a 2.00 GAA while starting every game during Ward's absence.

Khudobin has never faced the Panthers.

Tied for the team lead with 35 points, Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has one in his last five matchups against the Panthers. Carolina is 12-4-5 when Skinner records at least one point compared to 3-8-3 when he doesn't.

After going 5-1-0 in this series in 2011-12, Florida split four games with Carolina last season.

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