Florida Panthers
Carolina Hurricanes
League : NHL

Carolina Hurricanes vs Florida Panthers Prediction & Preview

Image licensed from USA Today Sports 

The top two teams in the Central Division will square off on Thursday night when the Florida Panthers visit the Carolina Hurricanes in a possible playoff preview. This is the finale of a two-game series, with Carolina picking up a 5-2 win on Tuesday evening to cash in as a -155 favorite. Florida is still holding on to first place in the Central at 26-10-4, with Carolina just one point behind sporting a record of 26-9-3.

Carolina has been tough in this season series so far winning four of the five head-to-head matchups, with three of those going to overtime.


Panthers' six-game winning streak snapped

It's been a wonderful season for the Panthers, but they are still struggling to beat the second-place Hurricanes and have now lost four straight head-to-head matchups after winning the opener back in February. The Panthers took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on a pair of goals by Aleksander Barkov, but couldn't hold the advantage as Carolina went up 3-2 midway through the third before adding two empty netters to give Florida its first regulation loss all season when leading after two periods.




Carter Verhaeghe posted two assists for the only other multi-point game by the Panthers, who managed 36 shots on net but couldn't break through in the final 30 minutes. Sergei Bobrovsky saved 31 of 34 shots faced as the Hurricanes were able to generate plenty of high-danger chances themselves.

“They’re a good team with the lead,” head coach Joel Quenneville said to the Associated Press. “They got it and they basically look to shut you down. That was part of it.”

Florida is an even 20-20 against the spread, as it has won a number of games as a favorite this season by a single goal, including two overtime triumphs during the recent six-game winning streak. Overs are also an even 19-19-2, as the two empty netters pushed Tuesday's game over the betting total.

The Panthers rank fifth in the NHL with 3.28 goals per game on 34.6 shots per game and an above-average 22.66% on the power play. Opponents are scoring 2.65 goals and generating 31 shots per game against the Panthers, who are killing off a strong 80.16% of penalites.

Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are tied atop the Florida leaderboard with 42 points, while Verhaeghe is the Panthers' top goal scorer with 17. Bobrovsky has started 23 games with a 15-6-2 record, 2.80 goals against average and 0.910 save percentage. Backup Chris Driedger has been even better, posting a 0.931 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average in 17 outings.

The Panthers are without one of their top defenseman in Aaron Ekblad, who is sixth on the team in points with 22, as he suffered a leg injury in late March and is out for the year. Winger Anthony Duclair is eligible to return from a shoulder injury, although its unclear if he will play.


Carolina continues dominance over Florida

The Panthers have the chance to take over first place in the Central Division should they pick up their fifth straight win over the Panthers on Thursday. Trailing early in the third, Carolina tied things at two on a power play goal Dougie Hamilton, and Jordan Staal scored twice in the period to give the Hurricanes a big win.




Sebastian Aho racked up three assists, with Trocheck adding the primary helper on Hamilton's game-tying goal. Petr Mrazek was terrific in just his sixth game of the season, stopping 34 of 36 Florida shot attempts to pick up the win.

“Just to be positive going into the third period,” Trocheck said to the Associated Press. “It was a good game. They’re a good team, so we couldn’t get down on ourselves for being in the position we were in.”

Carolina has managed just a 15-23 mark against the spread, as it has been a big favorite in most matchups, and the Hurricanes' last six games prior to Tuesday were all decided by one goal. Overs are above .500 at 17-16 after the empty net goals pushed Tuesday's game over the betting total.

The Hurricanes are just outside the top 10 in scoring offense at 3.18 goals per game on 32.4 shots per game and an elite 29.84% on the power play. Carolina is one of the NHL's top defenses, allowing 2.45 goals per game to rank third in scoring on 28.4 shots per game and 82.64% on the penalty kill.

Aho is the points leader for the Hurricanes with a mark of 36, with Trocheck tying him atop the leaderboard in goals with 15. James Reimer has received the most playing time in net, going 14-4-1 with a 0.905 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average in 19 starts.

Forward Teuvo Teravainen has been limited to 13 games this season and is currently out indefinitely with a concussion after scoring 15 goals a season ago. Winger Brock McGinn missed the last game with an upper body injury and is questionable for Thursday.

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