Game 35: New Jersey Devils at Florida Panthers
Game Time: 7:30 PM
Radio: Bloomberg 1130 AM
The New Jersey Devils (15-11-8) visit the Florida Panthers (10-19-6) for the first and only time this season, and for the first time since Henrique’s double OT goal sent them packing in last year’s playoffs. This is the second game between these two in the last week, as the Panthers visited Newark in a 2-1 win for the Devils. Jersey’s team will be hoping their effort will turn into more positive results, as their last two games have been shootout losses. The Panthers, whose playoff hopes have been long gone, will surely be up for this one as they would love to avenge not only the loss earlier in the week, but get some sort of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils only have 14 games remaining, and points are precious this time of year. Unfortunately, they have been leaving some of those points on the table with two shootout losses in their last two games to the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Without star player Ilya Kovalchuk last night, the Devils put up four goals, a sight for the sore eyes of fans that have seen a team that has struggled to score all season long. But if it isn’t one thing, it’s the other. The defense had an off night, and Tampa Bay was able to steal the game away from the Devils in the shootout. Matt D’Agostini had his strongest game of his short Devil career getting 2 assists, and will hope to continue that play tonight against the team that has the most goals allowed in the league. Martin Brodeur, after having a lot of time off with his injury, will be starting in back to back games for the first time this season. Ilya Kovalchuk will still be out with his shoulder injury, which he sustained in the game against Florida last Saturday, so the Devils will be need to get scoring from the other big names, as well as unlikely names like they did Friday night (i.e. Tom Kostopoulos). Harri Pesonen was assigned to Albany to make room for Henrik Tallinder on the roster. Adam Larsson confirmed he would play tonight, and it looks like Tallinder might be back in the lineup. As Peter Harrold and Anton Volchenkov had very tough games last night, look for them to possibly be benched.
The Panthers are statistically the worst team in the league, but sometimes those are the teams that cause the most troubles, the ones that have nothing to lose. Although they are 30th in goals against, 30th in the PK, and 27th in goals per game, they do have surprising wins against good teams such as the Penguins, Rangers, and the Jets. One of the bright spots this season has been the play of Shawn Matthias, who has a career-high 12 goals. Another bright spot has been Jonathan Huberdeau. The rookie has 13 goals, enough to lead all rookies this season.
What to Watch For
The Devils will need to rebound after a tough game last night. This is a road trip they should have come back home with 4 points, but now can only hope for 3. With the Eastern Conference playoff race so tight, there is no way the Devils can only come with 1 or even 2 points. Since the Panthers are playing almost only for pride at this point, this could be a trap game. The Devils cannot overlook this team just because they are last in the league. They had a bit of a tough time last time they faced this team but took home the victory in regulation. The building is sure to be hostile as the memories of last year’s playoffs loss will be brought back to the Florida fans. The Devils will hope to hone in on some of that magic of last year and come home with victory.