Florida (26-29-7) at Carolina (29-25-9)

By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Senior Writer Monday, Feb 28, 2011 Puck Drop: 7:00 pm EST Tue Mar 1, 2011

The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers have been trading partners twice in the past week, with the playoff-hopeful Hurricanes acquiring a pair of veterans for the stretch run while the Panthers begin to rebuild.

Getting defenseman Bryan Allen(notes) from Florida wasn’t the only good news Carolina received Monday.

The Hurricanes learned they’ll have captain Eric Staal(notes) back from a one-game absence Tuesday night against the visiting Panthers, who will see Allen and Cory Stillman(notes) on the ice for their Southeast Division rivals.

Carolina (29-25-9) has a two-point lead over Buffalo for the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 spot, and it’s made two deals in the past week designed to help it get to the postseason.

On Thursday, the Hurricanes sent Ryan Carter(notes) and a fifth-round draft pick to Florida (26-29-7) for Stillman, who had more playoff points than anyone but Staal while helping lead Carolina to the 2006 Stanley Cup.

The teams hooked up for another deal just before Monday’s deadline, with the Hurricanes acquiring the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Allen for Sergei Samsonov(notes), who was made expendable with the addition of Stillman and the presence of rookie Jerome Samson(notes).

“We like (Allen’s) experience, we like his size and he can play with some grit,” general manager Jim Rutherford told the Hurricanes’ official website. “With having that big reach, he can kill penalties very well.”

While Allen’s arrival should boost a penalty-kill unit that’s coming off its best month of the season - Carolina allowed just five goals in 37 chances (13.5 percent) - the fact that Staal won’t miss any extended time was even bigger news Monday. Staal suffered an upper-body injury in Friday’s 4-1 win over Pittsburgh that kept him out of Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Montreal.

But he was back on the ice at practice Monday, joining Stillman and Erik Cole(notes) on the team’s top line.

“He’s ready to play,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He felt good the next day after the (Pittsburgh) game and felt better the next day. He’s ready to go.”

Samsonov, who had just one goal in his final 15 games with Carolina, should be available for the Panthers against his old team.

It was a busy February for Florida general manager Dale Tallon, who began the month by dealing Michael Frolik(notes) to Chicago and ended it by making four trades Monday leading up to the deadline.

Among those leaving were defenseman Dennis Wideman(notes) and forwards Chris Higgins(notes) and Radek Dvorak(notes), the latter of whom brought back winger Niclas Bergfors(notes) from Atlanta.

Bergfors has a goal in each of three career visits to Raleigh.

In all, the Panthers acquired 11 players and four draft picks in February. They’ll have seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2011 entry draft.

“Today, and the previous few weeks, were extremely significant for the Florida Panthers franchise,” Tallon told the team’s official website. “We acquired a number of assets that fit our plan, we raised our number of 2011 draft picks to a total of ten, and we put ourselves in a position to be aggressive in pursuing top notch free agents come July 1.”

Florida fell to 2-5-0 in its past seven games with a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Sunday that left it eight points behind Carolina.

The Hurricanes are 3-1-1 against the Panthers this season. Cole has a point in all five games and has totaled four goals and three assists.

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