The New Jersey Devils (16-17-8) face the Florida Panthers (17-16-8) at the Prudential Center in the last of their three-game homestand and their last meeting of the season. The teams have met twice already this season; both games were in Sunrise, Florida and both games were losses in overtime. If there was any game that the Devils could realistically win and get two points, this would be it. They have to finish their homestand strong before they embark on a four-game road trip to Western Canada starting with the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.
The Devils played the Panthers in their first game of the season back on October 12th, a 2-1 overtime loss. P.A. Parenteau scored the lone goal for the Devils, his first of the season. They were 0/2 on the power play and killed all three Panthers’ power plays. They played well defensively and took 24 shots (but were outshot by 10). They played the Panthers again exactly three weeks later, this time a 4-3 overtime loss. Devils outshot the Panthers 34-31. Travis Zajac, Pavel Zacha, and Parenteau all scored; Zajac’s goal was his fourth of the season and a power play goal while Zacha’s was his first NHL goal. Devils outshot Florida 34-31 (a good sign). Cory Schneider started both games.
However, both teams are different this time around. Florida is riddled with injuries; they’re missing Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jonathan Marchessault, Seth Griffith, and Alex Petrovic. Roberto Luongo sustained an upper body injury during warm-ups on Friday but is expected to be good to go for tonight’s game. However, no goalie announcement has been yet and James Reimer could also be an option.
The Devils are missing a few defenseman, notably Captain Andy Greene, John Moore, and now Yohann Auvitu. Every other defenseman has really had to step up and spend more time on ice than they’re used to but the defense has played well in the last few games. The offense, however, needs some work and by some work, I mean a lot of work. I can count on the Devils defense to show up tonight but I don’t know about their offense. They need to score more goals and in order to score more goals, they need to take more shots. One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed is that they’re not in the right place at the right time. Toronto was able to score as many goals as they did because they had players around Schneider’s crease and were able to shoot the puck in the net off rebounds. Those rebounds are important and the Devils could have easily scored a couple extra goals Friday and Saturday night if there was someone outside the crease, just waiting to put the puck into the back of the net. But there are many things we could address and many people we could blame but there’s really no need.
The Devils are coming off a 2-1 OT loss to the Edmonton Oilers and the Panthers were shutout by the Boston Bruins 4-0 (James Reimer was in net). The Devils played much better in their loss to Edmonton than their beatdown by Toronto, despite only having 20 shots on goal (for comparison purposes, Toronto only had 14 SOG Friday night but still outscored the Devils 4-2). Both teams are looking for a win. Both teams are still, however unrealistic, in the playoff hunt. Two points tonight could go a long way in April. Puck drops at 7PM at the Prudential Center.