Panthers try to get going under Horachek, visit Wild

( - The Florida Panthers will try to build off their firstwin under Peter Horachek when they visit the surging Minnesota Wild inFriday's interconference battle at Xcel Energy Center.

The Panthers fired head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff after the club went3-9-4 through 16 games. Horachek, who has taken over the head coaching dutieson an interim basis, lost his first two games behind the Florida bench beforethe Panthers posted a 3-2 home win Tuesday against Anaheim.

Florida had lost nine straight games during an 0-5-4 stretch before finallyearning a win with the close decision over the visiting Ducks. Brad Boyesnetted the game-winner 4:29 into the third period, as the Panthers pottedthree unanswered goals to rally for the surprising victory over Anaheim.

Trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, Shawn Matthias and Scottie Upshall scored 1:10apart in the second to even the contest before Boyes' backhander early in thethird put the Panthers on top.

Tim Thomas turned away 32 shots, including 13 in the final frame to help snapFlorida's nine-game skid.

"Tonight we played 40 minutes and beat a heck of a hockey team," Horachek saidof the team's lackluster start to the game. "We still have lots of work to dobut I'm really proud of the way we responded."

Florida will try to halt another losing streak on Friday when they open afive-game road trip. The Panthers have lost eight straight as the guest andare just 1-7-1 on the road this season. The club's only win away from theSunshine State came in the season opener in Dallas on Oct. 3.

Changes also continued to hit the club as the Panthers dealt forwards KrisVersteeg and Philippe Lefebvre to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night forforward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.

Hayes has six goals and seven assists in 43 career NHL games, while Olsen haslogged 28 games over his young career.

Minnesota, meanwhile, is sporting a terrific 8-1-2 record on home ice thisseason and has won four straight in St. Paul. The Wild are also 8-1-2 in theirpast 11 trips to the ice overall.

The Wild notched their second straight win on Wednesday, recording a 2-1shootout victory over visiting Toronto. Zach Parise and Jason Pominville bothscored in the shootout to lift Minnesota to the close win.

After Parise lit the lamp as Minnesota's first shooter, Josh Harding stoppedMason Raymond and Phil Kessel before Pominville fired a wrister through thefive-hole of Jonathan Bernier for the win.

"We beat a really good team," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said. "I love the wayour guys competed."

Parise scored the Wild's only goal in regulation, with the assists coming fromMikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle. Harding made 19 saves on 20 shots afterentering the game in relief of an injured Niklas Backstrom.

Backstrom was hurt when Toronto's Nazem Kadri crashed the net and made contactto the head of the defenseless goaltender. The Wild announced after the gameBackstrom is suffering from an upper-body injury and he won't be available fortonight's game. Kadri was hit with a three-game suspension by the league forhis collision with Backstrom.

Kadri caused more trouble later in the game, receiving a five-minute matchpenalty for an illegal hit to the head on Mikael Granlund close to the midwaypoint of the third. Kadri threw a high hit along the boards, which sent theback of Granlund's head violently into the glass.

Granlund missed practice on Thursday, but he could go in Friday's game.

The Wild will close a three-game homestand Sunday against Winnipeg beforeheading out on a four-game road trip.

Florida has a 3-0-2 record over the last five meetings against the Wild, butMinnesota is 4-0-1 with a tie in the six all-time encounters in St. Paul.


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