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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, April 4th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (37-34-9) at Carolina Hurricanes (43-32-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes desperately need two points tonight as they wrap up their regular season with a home test against the Florida Panthers at the RBC Center.

The Hurricanes are tied atop the Southeast Division with the surging Washington Capitals, who drew even in the standings with Thursday's win over Tampa Bay. However, Carolina could win the division crown with a victory in tonight's game, as a "W" would push the Hurricanes two points ahead of Washington and make it impossible for the Capitals to catch them in the win category.

The 'Canes have been very successful against Florida recently, going 5-2 in the series this year and winning 12 of 14 and 13 of the last 16 meetings. Florida is also 0-14 with a tie in its last 15 trips to Raleigh.

Carolina had allowed Washington to draw even in the Southeast Division after dropping a 4-1 decision in D.C. on Tuesday, but the Hurricanes rebounded the following night against visiting Tampa Bay.

The Hurricanes notched the 6-2 win over the Hurricanes on Wednesday as Chad LaRose registered his first career hat trick to help his team regain sole possession of first place, if only for one night.

Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu each had a goal and an assist for the 'Canes, who won for just the second time in five games. Scott Walker also tallied, while Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to earn his 37th victory of the season.

The Hurricanes have a solid 24-12-4 record as the host this season and have won six of seven and nine of their last 11 home tests.

Florida was eliminated from the postseason race last week, marking the seventh straight season the Panthers will sit out the playoffs -- the longest current streak in the NHL.

However, the Panthers could still play spoiler in tonight's game and Saturday's season finale against Washington.

The Panthers ended a three-game losing streak their last time out, as they notched a close win in Atlanta on Tuesday. David Booth scored the eventual game-winner early in the third period to help Florida post the 3-2 victory at Philips Arena.

Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester each scored a goal for the Panthers, while Craig Anderson made 31 saves in the win.

Florida is closing out its season on a three-game road trip and is playing the middle test of that swing tonight. The Panthers are 19-19-1 as the visiting club this year and have won three of their last four on the road.

04/04 10:56:08 ET

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