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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, January 19th (All times Eastern)

Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-0) at Florida Panthers (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - For the first time in team history, the Florida Panthers will begin a season as defending division champions.

The Panthers will unveil their first Southeast Division title banner on Saturday night before hosting the new-look Carolina Hurricanes.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2011-12 season, Florida edged out the Washington Capitals by two points to finish first in the division standings, snapping a 10-season playoff drought. That came after a huge offseason overhaul that added 10 players who were mainstays to the roster.

The Panthers did fail to win their first playoff series since 1996, falling in seven games to the New Jersey Devils despite holding a 3-2 series advantage. They lost Game 6 in overtime before a heart-breaking double-overtime defeat at home in Game 7.

Florida was much quieter this offseason and saw high-scoring defenseman Jason Garrison depart for the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent. The Panthers replaced him by signing 36-year-old Filip Kuba, a former draft pick of Florida in 1995 who enters his 14th NHL season. Kuba had six goals in his fourth season with the Ottawa Senators in 2011-12.

"I think Filip Kuba is a guy you may not notice a heck of a lot on the ice, but gives us a large presence and is a very stable player," noted Florida coach Kevin Dineen.

Kuba joins a blue line that includes point-producer Brian Campbell and veteran Ed Jovanovski, who was named the club's seventh captain on Friday morning.

The bulk of offensive production for the Panthers last season came from the top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg, who all combined for 70 goals and 172 points. Florida hopes it added depth in the form of acquisitions Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev as well as rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, the third overall pick of the 2011 draft.

Though the Panthers were rumored to be interested in acquiring Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, they for now are sticking with the returning tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen for his shortened 48-game season.

Theodore went 22-16-11 in 53 games last season with a 2.46 goals against average and .917 save percentage, while Clemmensen was 14-6-6 in 30 appearances with a 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage.

The duo open the campaign with a chip on their shoulder thanks to the Luongo talks.

"I would. If someone keeps talking about somebody else who's a world-class player, I'd say you know what, bring it on," said Dineen. "You're talking about professional athletes. They understand what the situation is and I think they can't wait to get the season started and just get in the net and show what they can do."

It is unknown who will start on Saturday.

While the Panthers did not tinker with their roster a whole lot, the Hurricanes made some big splashes in trading for center Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins and signing winger and former Capital Alexander Semin to boost a club that missed the playoffs for a third straight season and for the fifth time in six years since winning its first ever Stanley Cup.

Kirk Muller, who took over last season for the fired Paul Maurice after an 8-13-4 start, is likely to pair Semin, a former 40-goal scorer who slipped to 21 last season, on the top line with Jordan's older brother Eric Staal, while rising young star Jeff Skinner should team with the younger Staal to give Carolina a needed 1-2 punch on its second line.

Muller is hoping that Semin can kick start Eric Staal, whose 24 goals a season ago were his lowest since his 2003-04 rookie campaign.

"He's excited, excited to be involved here with our hockey club," Muller said of Semin. "He's going to get a great opportunity to play his game. I think our system, hopefully, suits him well, the skating style, getting him involved. We're a better team with him in the lineup."

Muller will also be hoping for a bit of a bounce-back campaign from netminder Cam Ward, whose 2.74 GAA last season was his highest in four campaigns.

To replace free agent losses Bryan Allen and Derek Joslin on the blue line, the Hurricanes signed the steady Joe Corvo and also added Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Most important for Muller, he wants to raise expectations for a Hurricanes club coming off a last-place finish.

"I think we have a strong enough group right now that every night we should battle to try and win," he said. "If we win because we play well, that's great. If we lose, it's going to be because the opponent outplayed us in other areas, but we have the capability of matching up with anybody right now, but we have to go and earn it. That's going to be the biggest thing."

Another key factor will be beating the Panthers. The Hurricanes dropped five of six to the division winner last season, including all three trips to Sunrise by a 9-3 margin.

01/19 10:52:58 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR
 
Final
TEX 3
CLE 12
Final
COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
10th
CWS 5
TOR 3
 
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
 
Final
BOS 4
MIN 6
Final
PHI 0
NYM 7
 
Final
SEA 3
TAM 0
 
7th
SFG 2
MIL 1
 
2nd
DET 0
OAK 0
 
4:35pm Today
HOU
BAL
8:05pm Tonight
WAS
CHC
8:15pm Tonight
ARI
STL
10:05pm Tonight
SDP
ANA
10:10pm Tonight
ATL
LOS
1:05pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
4:35pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
8:05pm Thursday
BOS
TEX
 
10:05pm Thursday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Thursday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Thursday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Thursday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Thursday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
9:00pm Tonight
HOU
GSW
9:00pm Friday
GSW
HOU
 
9:00pm Sunday
HOU
GSW
 
8:00pm Tonight
ANA
CHI
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
12:00pm Friday
AUBURN
CHARLESTON
 
1:00pm Friday
CALIFORNIA
CCAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
COLUMBIA
ECAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
ORALROBRTS
ARKANSAS
 
1:00pm Friday
OREGON
IOWA
 
1:00pm Friday
SFLORIDA
FAU
 
1:00pm Friday
WRIGHTST
NOTREDAME
 
2:00pm Friday
MICHIGAN
BRADLEY
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
FLAAM
FLORIDA
 
7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
SACREDHART
TCU
 
7:00pm Friday
STJOHNS
OKLAHOMAST
 
7:00pm Friday
TSOUTHERN
TEXASAM
 
7:00pm Friday
VCU
DALLASBAPT
 
8:00pm Friday
HSTNBAPT
HOUSTON
 
8:00pm Friday
LIPSCOMB
VANDERBILT
 
8:00pm Friday
OHIO
ILLINOIS
 
8:00pm Friday
TULANE
NWILMINGTN
 
10:00pm Friday
PEPPERDINE
FULLERTON
 
10:00pm Friday
SANDIEGOST
CSANTABAR
 
11:00pm Friday
CSBAKER
UCLA
 
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR