Panthers-Hurricanes Preview

Jeff Skinner has the Carolina Hurricanes playing at a high level on offense, but they haven't had much success in recent meetings with the Florida Panthers.

As the veteran winger looks to stay hot, the Hurricanes will try for their fifth win in seven games Friday night by snapping a four-game losing streak to the Panthers.

After he scored only five goals over his first 25 games, Skinner has found a groove with nine in his last six. He recorded his second hat trick in three games during Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss at Philadelphia.

It's the first time in franchise history that a player had multiple hat tricks in a span of three or fewer team games. Skinner insists he isn't doing anything differently, noting his good chemistry with linemates Victor Rask and newcomer Phil Di Giuseppe.

Di Giuseppe, who was recalled Dec. 5, has made an immediate impact with two goals and three assists - all on goals by Skinner - in his last four games.

"As a line, me, Phil and Rasker have been playing well and generating lots of opportunities. They've just been going in," Skinner, who has a team-high 14 goals, told the team's official website. "When you get a line together that's playing well ... they're able to feed off each other, and it creates the perfect storm to produce."

The Hurricanes have scored at least three goals in six consecutive games, going 4-1-1. They've gotten eight of their 26 goals over that span with the man advantage, including four by league power-play goals leader Justin Faulk.

"Even as a team, we scored more on that (four-game) road trip than we have all year," Skinner added. "Any time that happens, guys are going to have success individually. Hopefully we can keep going as a line and as a team."

Carolina, however, could have a more difficult time as it goes after its fifth win in six at home. Florida (16-12-4) has limited the Hurricanes to just two goals while winning all four meetings over the past two seasons.

Skinner has scored only once over his last 15 in the series after Elias Lindholm provided the only tally in a 4-1 home loss to the Panthers on Oct. 13.

Al Montoya finished with 22 saves in that contest, but he's likely to give way to Roberto Luongo after he had 15 in Thursday's 5-1 win at New Jersey. Luongo has a 1.86 goals-against average over his last eight starts and has allowed just two goals in his last three against the Hurricanes (12-14-5).

The Panthers, who are 2-1 on a four-game trip, have won seven of nine on the road while limiting opponents to 13 goals in the last eight.

They're also playing well on the attack, totaling 15 scores while winning three of their past four overall. Brandon Pirri has two goals and five assists over a five-game point streak and Reilly Smith has a goal in three straight and four of the last five.

"We're having fun," Pirri said. "We're just enjoying the ride."

Cam Ward is expected to start for Carolina despite allowing four goals on eight shots before getting pulled in Tuesday's 6-5 loss at Dallas. He's gone 6-2-1 with a 1.90 GAA in his last nine home starts against the Panthers.

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