Mar 21, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — After missing the last 44 games, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen will return to the ice Wednesday when the Florida Panthers come to PNC Arena, the team announced Wednesday morning.
Pitkanen, 28, has totaled three goals, nine assists (12 points) and eight penalty minutes in 21 games for the Hurricanes this season. He suffered a concussion in December and underwent knee surgery Jan. 3.
The Oulu, Finland native has missed a total of 52 games this season due to injury. In his NHL career, Pitkanen has earned 268 points (54 goals, 214 assists) in 504 games with Carolina, Philadelphia and Edmonton.
Both the Hurricanes and the Panthers enter Wednesday's game on a hot streak. Carolina has won three straight and picked up two big wins over the weekend at Minnesota Saturday and at Winnipeg Sunday. Southeast Division-leading Florida has won five straight games and has a five-point cushion over second-place Washington.
The Panthers started their current winning streak March 11 with a 2-0 win over Carolina, and have taken all four meetings between the teams this season. The Florida Panthers are creating momentum that could not only lead them to their first ever division title, but also make them a dangerous team come playoff-time.
"We want to keep this momentum going," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen. "I think that's a word that we've used a lot lately. Trying to build some momentum and it's not just to get in. We want to be an effective team. I don't think we played our best game tonight."
The victory snapped Florida's three-game road slide and gave it at least one win over every team in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Hurricanes appear to be fading from the postseason picture despite playing some of their better hockey as of late. They are 5-2-2 in their past nine games and matched a season high with a third straight victory by taking Sunday's contest in Winnipeg by a 4-3 margin.
Still, Carolina is seven points behind eighth-place Washington with nine games to go.
The 'Canes rallied to beat the Jets on Sunday as Eric Staal's second goal of the game tied the contest with 9:36 left before Chad LaRose netted the game- winner with 1:22 to play. Jussi Jokinen added a short-handed goal and two assists, while Cam Ward came up with 30 saves.
"This is an atmosphere that you love to play in and this is our playoffs right now," said Staal. "We have to win as many games as we can at this point and have to play our top game every time. This was a big one for us."
Carolina will try to win four straight for the first time since Dec. 11-18 of last season and will have forward Jeff Skinner back as he returns from a two- game suspension for kicking a Blues player last Thursday in a 2-0 win. Skinner is second on the club with 20 goals, trailing only Staal's 21.