Going into tonight’s matchup, the New Jersey Devils are winners of their last two contests, while hoisting a respectable 4-1-1 record in their last six games (including a win over these same Florida Panthers). The Devils are aiming to win three in a row for the third time this season, with their last three-game win streak occurring between October 27th and November first. The Devils have yet to lose in regulation to an Atlantic Division opponent, having gone 7-0-2 in nine matchups against the Senators, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, and Panthers.
Per Andrew Gross, it appears Stefan Noesen will replace Jimmy Hayes as the only notable lineup change from last game, with the defense remaining unchanged. Florida’s struggles this season have been very well-documented, as the team enters tonight’s clash having lost three out of their last four matchups (1-3-0). The last time these two teams met was a relatively uneventful bout that saw the Devils prevail with a final score of 2-1. The Devils will be without right winger Kyle Palmieri, who scored the game-winner when these two teams last met, however considering the level New Jersey’s offense has been playing at, I find it unlikely tonight’s game will bear any similarity to the last time these two teams met.
Keys to the Game
Keep Shooting…In their last three matchups, the Devils have either outshot their opponents or reached the 30-shot plateau, which brought the Devils from one of the lowest-shooting teams in the league to more of a mid-range rank in this category. Despite their high goal totals, the Devils have been especially selective on which shooting opportunities they’re taking this season. The Panthers outshot New Jersey 33-21 in their previous matchup two weeks ago, so this is somewhere the Devils must improve if they want to give themselves a better chance at winning tonight’s game.
Stay Out of the Box…At this point two weeks ago, New Jersey was one of the most-penalized teams in the league, sitting among the top-10 in minor penalties taken and penalty minutes per game. They’ve played with more discipline as of late, which has resulted in the Devils dropping to 15th-16th in each of the aforementioned categories. New Jersey still struggles on the penalty kill at times and despite Florida’s immense struggles on special teams, the Devils can give themselves the best chance to run away in this winnable contest by maintaining their improved on-ice discipline.
Players to Watch
Damon Severson…The fourth-year defender has been playing like a two-way top-pairing defenseman in recent games. The 23-year old tallied his second goal of the season in his team’s last game against the Panthers, and (including that game) has two goals and four points in his last eight contests. The Devils need all the offense they can get from their backend, so it’ll be important for Severson to maintain his level of play in tonight’s contest.
Cory Schneider…While his record of 9-4-3 is commendable, Schneider’s season GAA of 2.76 and .918 sharply stand out. While teams are simply scoring more goals this year, Schneider’s play has become relatively stable over his last six starts. He’s gone 3-1-2, posted a 2.33 GAA, and .917 save percentage. I wouldn’t say Schneider is ready to propel himself back to all-star form, but his improved play in recent weeks is certainly an encouraging sign that should easily be maintained against a struggling Florida Panthers team with a subpar offense.
Where to Watch
When to Watch