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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, February 16th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (27-27-6) at Carolina Hurricanes (29-27-4), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes will try to win three straight games for the first time since the opening weeks of the season when they welcome the Florida Panthers for tonight's crucial Southeast Division clash at the RBC Center.

The Hurricanes are coming off victories over Boston and Pittsburgh and now have a chance to match their season-high three-game winning streak set from October 9-13.

Despite the absence of lengthy winning runs, the Hurricanes are still in the thick of the Southeast race. Carolina is tied with Atlanta for first place in the extremely competitive division with 62 points, with Florida and Washington each lurking just two points back of the leaders.

After winning in Boston on Tuesday, Carolina returned home two days later and defeated the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Ray Whitney registered a goal and two assists as the Hurricanes doubled up the Penguins, 4-2.

Eric Staal posted a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes, who were playing their first home game since January 31. Erik Cole and Ryan Bayda also tallied, while Frantisek Kaberle recorded two assists.

Cam Ward, making his career-high 12th straight start between the pipes, stopped 20-of-22 shots to earn his 24th win of the season.

The victory came with a heavy cost for Carolina, though, as team captain Rod Brind'Amour suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee during the opening period. The veteran center leads the Hurricanes with 32 assists this year and ranks second on the team with 51 points.

Florida moved into a third-place tie with Washington in the Southeast with last night's 4-2 decision over the Capitals at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers rallied for three third-period goals to erase a 2-1 deficit and snap a two-game losing streak in the process.

Kamil Kreps snapped a 2-2 deadlock when the Panthers forward scored with 11:33 left to play. David Booth later sealed the victory with an empty-net tally in the final minute.

Both Kreps and Booth added assists on the evening, while Tomas Vokoun stopped 30-of-32 shots for Florida.

The Panthers hope to carry that momentum into a building where they haven't left with a victory in more than five years. Florida has lost 12 consecutive times at the RBC Center and has 13 defeats and one tie since its last win in Raleigh, a 2-0 triumph on December 6, 2002.

Carolina has also claimed victory in 16 of the 21 overall matchups between the divisional foes since 2005-06.

The Hurricanes are 14-11-2 as the host club this year and have won three straight and four of their last five in Raleigh. Carolina will visit New Jersey on Monday, but will then open a six-game homestand beginning with Tuesday's test against Boston.

02/16 10:23:33 ET

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