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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
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
BSU
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
GSW
8:00pm Tonight
UF
UNC
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
GSW
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
DAL
7:30pm Tonight
DET
MIL
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
NOP
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
LAC
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
NYK
8:00pm Tonight
IND
ORL
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
SAC
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
PHO
10:00pm Tonight
POR
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
 
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
 
4th
AFA 24
COLST 24
 
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
 
8:00pm Tonight
VT
UVA
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 56
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
 
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
 
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
 
1st OT
Terriers 61
NORST 61
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
 
Half
FSU 29
CSOU 17
 
Half
VALPO 29
DRAK 22
 
Half
CIN 37
MTST 17
 
Half
SDU 40
PRIN 28
 
1st
WASU 37
RICE 31
 
1st
CSFU 28
USCU 25
 
1st
GT 19
RIDE 11
 
7:00pm Tonight
TXPA
ALAST
7:00pm Tonight
NCSU
BSU
7:00pm Tonight
TCU
BRAD
7:00pm Tonight
WAKE
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
HART
EMERSON
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GONZ
7:00pm Tonight
CLEM
HIGH
 
7:00pm Tonight
SYR
HC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MD
MON
7:00pm Tonight
JVST
SAV
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
SALA
7:00pm Tonight
RUTG
VANDY
7:30pm Tonight
PETE
TENST
8:00pm Tonight
MARS
CLST
8:00pm Tonight
JST
HOF
 
8:00pm Tonight
INDST
MEM
8:00pm Tonight
UF
UNC
8:00pm Tonight
LATU
SAMF
8:00pm Tonight
TULA
SELA
 
8:00pm Tonight
NEB
TENNM
8:30pm Tonight
MISS
CREI
8:30pm Tonight
PORT
MURST
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
MSU
9:00pm Tonight
ARK
UNT
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
STET
 
9:00pm Tonight
IND
UNCG
9:00pm Tonight
SJST
WMICH
9:05pm Tonight
MNTST
TXARL
9:30pm Tonight
UVA
LAS
9:30pm Tonight
STLU
MSST
9:30pm Tonight
COLST
PAC
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
NDAK
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
3rd
WAS 3
NYI 2
 
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
DET
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
MON
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
VAN
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
WIN
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
OTT
8:00pm Tonight
STL
EDM
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
MIN