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Panthers visit Stars in key clash

By Dan Pieringer

Stats Writer

Florida (36-28-11) at Dallas (33-32-9), 8 p.m. EDT

DALLAS (AP) -- Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer says his team

will need to rely heavily on strong goaltending to emerge from

the heated Eastern Conference playoff race and secure its first

postseason berth in nearly a decade.

He just doesn't know which goalie he'll be turning to.

It's unclear who will be in net Saturday night when the Panthers

try to build on their first victory in a week by taking

advantage of a road game against the reeling Dallas Stars.

Tomas Vokoun has been Florida's top goalie all season but he's

struggled down the stretch in recent games, including his last

start Wednesday night. He gave up three unanswered goals - while

facing 20 shots - in the third period as Florida (36-28-11) blew

a two-goal lead to fall 5-3 at Buffalo.

Vokoun's inconsistency led DeBoer to turn to Craig Anderson on

Thursday night, and he made 40 saves in a 4-2 win over

Philadelphia. Anderson, who hadn't played since a March 1 win at

Washington, helped snap the Panthers' three-game losing streak

(0-2-1).

"The other guy hadn't been getting it done for us," DeBoer said.

"We had been in this position earlier in the year and made a

change. The team responded and Craig responded."

Though he was pleased with the effort, DeBoer hasn't committed

to a goaltender for Saturday. It's an important decision with

only seven regular-season games left for the Panthers, who are

two points behind eighth-place Montreal.

"We need great goaltending down the stretch," DeBoer told the

team's official Web site. "I know that puts a lot of pressure on

one position, but that's the type of team we are. We feed off

good goaltending. Tomas Vokoun gave us that. He got us here. He

played two months of fantastic hockey. We need that down the

stretch from both those guys."

The Stars (33-32-9) got great goaltending from Marty Turco on

Thursday night but still suffered a 1-0 shootout loss to Los

Angeles. They've gone 0-4-1 in their last five and 2-7-1 in

their last 10 at home to fall into 12th place in the West.

"We left a point out there," Turco said. "We had a lot of

chances that didn't go our way. Unfortunately, we're just

running out of time. We're going to fight until they tell us to

go home."

The Stars, who came within two wins of reaching last year's

Stanley Cup final, are in danger of missing the playoffs for the

second time in 12 seasons.

"We have lots of try from a lot of people, but we needed to bury

one of those chances," coach Dave Tippett said. "We have to win

games to keep ourselves in the race. Each game we scratch and

claw. We still have this in our hands."

Turco made 27 saves and Mike Ribeiro had his first NHL hat trick

as the Stars took a 4-1 road win Jan. 21 in their only previous

meeting with the Panthers this season.

Neither Panthers goaltender has had much success against the

Stars. Vokoun's 6-17-0 with one tie and a 2.54 goals-against

average, while Anderson has posted a 6.72 GAA in two games - no

starts.

Though those numbers don't bode well for Florida's chances at

its first postseason berth since the 1999-2000 season, DeBoer

remains optimistic.

"We hadn't been getting the bounces or timely goal or timely

saves, and it all came together (Thursday)," he said.

"Hopefully, that will send us in the right direction in these

last seven games."

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