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Feb 21, 2024 7:19 pm

Panthers, Hurricanes meet in Eastern Conference finals rematch

Sergei Bobrovsky

Not much has changed since the last time the Florida Panthers visited Raleigh, N.C.

The Panthers are still one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and so are the Carolina Hurricanes as the two clubs prepare to meet on Thursday night for a rematch of last spring’s Eastern Conference finals.

“They certainly haven’t taken any steps back from the way they finished their season,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of the Panthers. “It’s one of the best teams in the league, easily.”

Florida won the first matchup against Carolina this season, posting a 5-2 home victory on Nov. 10. The Panthers, who swept Carolina in last season’s playoff series, will return to Raleigh in mid-March.

“There are areas that we need to get better at,” Brind’Amour said. “We know what we’re getting out of them, and they should know what they’re getting out of us. They are good teams. There are no secrets.”

The Panthers have won six games in a row and 10 of their past 11 after topping the visiting Ottawa Senators 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday night. The Hurricanes have won five of their past six games.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been up to the task for Florida, something the Panthers are used to.

“Our goaltending has been very good,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “We haven’t asked them to be the difference too, too often. They’ve had to be as good as the other guy a bunch of nights, and that’s usually true in any kind of playoff team.”

Bobrovsky is riding a personal seven-game winning streak. His 28 wins this season rank third in the league.

All goalie issues might not be solved for the Hurricanes, but they’re starting to like all their options. It also might make it trickier to figure out who will be starting on Thursday.

Goalie Spencer Martin started the past two games for the Hurricanes, though he was pressed into duty for Monday night’s 6-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks because Pyotr Kochetkov was ill earlier in the day.

Martin has been with the Hurricanes for just a few weeks, but he has been strong in his limited opportunities. He gave up only one even-strength goal to the Blackhawks.

“It’s a great feeling, but I still feel like I have a lot to prove,” Martin said. “It’s been a special opportunity to play with a team like this. The way they’ve brought me into this locker room is really building my confidence as well.”

Endorsements have been coming for Martin from his new teammates.

“He’s played three games and he’s been ready whenever we’ve needed him,” Carolina forward Sebastian Aho said. “He’s been a big part of these three wins and I’m just happy for him.”

The Hurricanes plugged Tony DeAngelo into the lineup vs. Chicago in place of injured defenseman Jalen Chatfield, who was listed with an upper-body injury. Chatfield participated in non-contact work at Wednesday’s practice.

The Panthers, who barely made the playoffs last season before reaching the Stanley Cup Final, don’t want to let off the accelerator.

“Obviously we’re in a little bit of a different scenario and more comfortable than last year,” Florida defenseman Brandon Montour said. “We’ve just got to keep playing hard and playing our best hockey.”

Florida forward Matthew Tkachuk has at least one point in 20 of his past 22 games.

–Field Level Media

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