While the Carolina Hurricanes are 15-10-4 in 2015, they’ve gone 1-3-1 since the March 2 trade deadline.
Question: are the Canes now too undermanned following the trades of Andrej Sekera, Jiri Tlusty and Tim Gleason?
"No, no," Canes coach Bill Peters said Saturday. "We've got to get better with the puck and we've got to execute better with the puck. We've got to tighten up defensively. We've given up too many goals."
The Canes have allowed 21 goals in the past five games after the 5-3 loss Thursday against the Dallas Stars.
"That's too many, at this time of year," Peters said. "At this time of year it's harder to score, not easier to score. We've got to do a better job of putting pucks in behind people and spend more time in the offensive zone."
The Panthers (30-23-14), after winning their last two games were six points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference after Friday's games. Ahead of them: the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators.
"They're like every other team that's in the playoff race, they're desperate," Peters said. "They're going to be desperate and we've got to play better than we have here recently."
-- Defenseman Ryan Murphy went through the morning skate Saturday but did not feel well after it and will not play, Peters said. John-Michael Liles, after being a healthy scratch the past two games, returns to the lineup.
The Canes' lines Saturday had Jordan Staal at center with Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm; Victor Rask centering Chris Terry and Andrej Nestrasil; Riley Nash centering Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin, and Jay McClement with Brad Malone and Nathan Gerbe. Pat Dwyer was the extra forward.
-- Two years ago, goalies Cam Ward and Dan Ellis were teammates on the Canes. On Saturday, they'll be in opposite nets.
Ellis will be making his fourth consecutive start -- and seeking a third consecutive victory -- for the Panthers since being recalled from San Antonio (AHL) on March 4.
Ellis, 34, was needed after injuries to Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya and has delivered. In his three starts, the Panthers lost in a shootout to the Dallas Stars but won in a shootout against the New York Islanders, then topped Winnipeg 4-2 on Thursday.
"It's been a good year," Ellis said. "Obviously you don't want to go back to the minors at this point in your career but it was helpful. It gave me a chance to play a lot of games and work on some areas of my game I probably wouldn't have had as a backup playing 15 games (in the NHL). I had a chance to play 35 down there."
Ellis started the 2012-2013 season with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with the NHL mired in a lockout. Playing 18 games for the Checkers, he was ready to join the Canes once the lockout ended and made 19 appearances, going 6-8-2. After Ward suffered a season-ending knee injury, Ellis and Justin Peters split the goaltending.
Ellis signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars after the season. The Stars then traded him in March 2014 to the Panthers.
Of the game against the Canes, Ellis said, "It's another fun building to play in and another familiar place. Just looking forward to another game."