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Talking with Pete DeBoer, Stephen Weiss

Weiss RALEIGH, N.C. – Center Stephen Weiss was back at practice Monday after missing his second game in a three week span with what is believed to be a lower back injury.

Weiss is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Hurricanes and should play in Florida’s final two games before the Olympic break. At that point, Weiss should be able to get some much needed rest.

After the Panthers play host to Boston on Saturday, they don’t play again until March 2.

“He needs to get back 100 percent healthy,’’ said coach Pete DeBoer. “Those two weeks are coming just at the right time for him.’’

Despite the obvious benefits of rest, Weiss said he would just as soon keep playing through the break. The Panthers are likely suggest he shut things down for a few days as they would like to have him as close to 100 percent as they head down the stretch.

The Panthers have already lost winger Nathan Horton to a broken leg and Weiss has slumped as he’s fought through the injury. Weiss has just one goal in the past 10 games. “This hasn’t just crept up,’’ DeBoer said, “and we’re seeing the effects of that in his stats. He’s not 100 percent.’’

It’s thought he aggravated the injury Friday night against the Flames.

“It will be nice to be able to heal and get better, but I want to keep playing,’’ said Weiss. “I don’t like too much time off but it will be good to take care of these bumps and bruises before the final push.’’

DeBoer had a little surprise for Weiss upon his return as the top line has changed up. Weiss will center David Booth and Cory Stillman, with second-year winger Michael Frolik dropped to the third line.

Like Weiss, Frolik has been in a prolonged scoring slump. Frolik hasn’t scored since Jan. 13.

The Panthers have scored 12 goals in their past 10 games. In their three game losing streak, Florida has scored just three goals.

“Not many players in this league are at the top of their game all season,’’ said DeBoer. “You would like a couple guys to be hot while a couple are cold so you have some guys to carry you through. The problem we have is we don’t have anyone riding that offensive wave, or at least being at the top of it.’’

(*) The Panthers had a spirited practice at RBC Center on Monday with new lines. DeBoer ended the session with a shootout competition with lots of skating as he split the team in two. With so many players in a prolonged scoring slump, DeBoer figured he would change things up – and hope that helps.

“We’re pretty demanding as a staff on a daily basis,’’ DeBoer said. “It’s a long season. You can’t keep pounding the table with the same thing. You have to try other things.’’

(*) DeBoer and Carolina coach Paul Maurice had lunch together on Monday. The two rival coaches have been best of friends for years, with Maurice giving DeBoer his first junior coaching job when both were living in the Detroit area.

TUESDAY: PANTHERS AT HURRICANES

When, Where: 7 p.m.; RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

TV/Radio: FSNF/WAXY-790

The series: Hurricanes lead 42-32-11

The game: Carolina is tied for the fewest points in the NHL, but the Canes have been better of late and have won six of eight – including two straight on the road. The Panthers, losers of three straight, are winless in two games here this season. Tomas Vokoun will start in net for Florida; Carolina may counter with rookie Justin Peters after he won his NHL debut Saturday on Long Island.

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