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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
ECU 56
TEMPL 70
Final
NCCU 69
NCAT 58
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
MIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
TOR
 
Final
DET 4
ATL 6
 
Final
TAM 2
BAL 3
 
Final
PIT 1
NYY 2
 
Final
HOU 6
PHI 3
 
Final
MIA 1
STL 4
 
Final
SFG 8
CHC 6
 
Final
CIN 3
CLE 9
 
Final
CWS 1
LOS 6
 
Final
ANA 3
MIL 2
 
Final
CHC 2
OAK 2
 
Final
SEA 9
SDP 4
 
Final
KAN 5
TEX 4
 
Final
ARI 4
COL 3
 
Final
WAS 5
NYM 4
 
Final
MIN 9
BOS 8
 
Final
BAL 5
TOR 0
 
1:05pm Today
STL
HOU
 
1:05pm Today
BOS
MIA
 
1:05pm Today
TAM
MIN
 
1:05pm Today
PHI
NYY
 
1:05pm Today
ATL
WAS
 
1:07pm Today
TOR
BAL
 
1:10pm Today
NYM
DET
 
3:05pm Today
SDP
CWS
 
3:05pm Today
CHC
CIN
 
3:05pm Today
CLE
KAN
 
3:05pm Today
MIL
LOS
 
3:05pm Today
TEX
SFG
 
3:05pm Today
LOS
SEA
 
3:10pm Today
ANA
COL
 
3:10pm Today
ARI
OAK
 
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
PIT
 
Final
CHI 108
OKC 105
Final
POR 94
DAL 75
7:00pm Tonight
IND
CHI
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
MIA
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
SAC
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
TOR
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
UTA
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
CLE
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
BOS
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
DET
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
LAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
BRK
PHO
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
DEN
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
DAL
 
Final
MDES 89
MRGST 76
 
Final
SIENA 71
NIAG 54
Final
LEH 62
AMER 68
 
Final
SCAR 74
ARK 78
Final
LAF 89
BU 64
 
Final
PETE 63
FAIR 33
Final
BUCK 90
HC 83
 
Final
UNF 71
LIP 57
 
Final
TENNM 65
MORE 76
Final
COL 72
NAVY 62
 
Final
ECU 56
TEMPL 70
Final
FATL 62
UAB 59
Final
FLGC 62
USCU 63
 
Final
CHAR 84
WKENT 88
Final
MINN 63
WISC 76
Final
MIZST 48
SILL 55
Final
COPST 92
DELST 104
 
Final
FIU 59
MTST 54
Final
HAMP 69
NORST 80
 
Final
NCCU 69
NCAT 58
 
Final
COOK 72
SCST 62
 
Final
APP 67
TXST 64
 
Final
GSOUT 76
TXARL 64
 
Final
LAMON 50
UGST 58
 
Final
ODU 67
MARS 50
Final
TXSA 74
RICE 76
Final
FAM 64
SAV 57
 
Final
LATU 72
SMISS 61
Final
JST 72
ALAAM 54
 
Final
GRAM 46
ALAST 78
 
Final
TXSOU 94
ALCOR 73
 
Final
NICST 77
CARK 70
 
Final
TAMCC 85
HOUB 72
 
Final
NARZ 58
PORST 51
 
Final
LAM 61
SHSU 67
 
Final
ARKST 76
SALA 81
 
Final
PVU 73
SOUTH 77
 
Final
LALAF 75
ARKLR 69
 
Final
NO 85
SELA 79
 
Final
INCWORD 64
ABCHRIST 52
 
9:00pm Thursday
MVSU 0
ARKPB 0
 
Final
ARZ 99
CAL 60
Final
WASH 47
COL 64
Final
WEBER 74
IDAHO 63
 
Final
UCONN 53
MEM 54
Final
UTEP 83
UNT 60
Final
STEPH 92
NWST 66
 
Final
SUTAH 69
SACST 65
 
Final
DAVID 82
VCU 55
Final
IDST 81
EWASH 85
 
Final
QUIN 74
MAR 80
Final
BEL 97
EILL 64
Final
DRAK 50
BRAD 52
Final
LBSU 69
CSNO 58
 
Final
UCI 68
CSFU 62
 
Final
UCD 61
UCR 59
 
Final
ARST 67
STAN 62
Final
WASU 59
UTAH 67
12:00pm Today
MVSU
ARKPB
 
12:00pm Today
CSOU
LONG
 
1:05pm Today
WICHS
SILL
 
2:00pm Today
RAD
WINT
 
3:35pm Today
ILLST
EVAN
 
6:00pm Tonight
HIGH
GWEBB
 
6:00pm Tonight
UNCG
SAMF
 
6:00pm Tonight
ELON
TOWS
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
AKR
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
BGU
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
BRO
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMICH
CMICH
 
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
CLMB
 
7:00pm Tonight
PRIN
CORN
 
7:00pm Tonight
OU
ILLCH
 
7:00pm Tonight
OHIO
UMO
 
7:00pm Tonight
BST
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
EMICH
TOL
 
7:05pm Tonight
NIOWA
BRAD
 
7:30pm Tonight
MURST
MORE
 
8:00pm Tonight
CCAR
UNCA
 
8:00pm Tonight
HARV
YALE
 
8:30pm Tonight
DREX
COC
 
8:30pm Tonight
CITA
FUR
 
9:00pm Tonight
USF
PAC
 
9:00pm Tonight
BAY
TTU
 
9:30pm Tonight
EKENT
BEL
 
9:30pm Tonight
CLST
DET
 
9:35pm Tonight
INDST
LOYC
 
11:30pm Tonight
SCU
LMU
 
Final
BOS 3
CAL 4
Final
WAS 1
MIN 2
Final
PHI 3
STL 1
Final
FLA 3
DAL 4
Final
TAM 4
TOR 2
Final
NAS 3
NYI 4
Final
ARI 3
VAN 2
Final
LOS 4
MON 3
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
CLB
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
BUF
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
CAL
 
8:30pm Tonight
CHI
EDM
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
PIT