After surrendering the lead with 15.1 seconds to go in the game and losing in a shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, the New Jersey Devils are set to take the ice tonight against the Florida Panthers.
It’s been a rough campaign for the Panthers this season. They have only won ten of their 35 games, and are struggling greatly. However, you can expect them to come out with a little extra fire tonight. The last time the Devils played at BB&T Center, the Panthers were sent packing. Adam Henrique scored in double overtime of game seven of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals last season, ending the Panthers’ season. The Panthers know that they let an opportunity go last year, and the fact that the Devils went on to the Stanley Cup Finals made it that much worse for them.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Brian Campbell lead Panther skaters this year. Huberdeau has netted 13 goals and has registered ten assists in his rookie season thus far. Campbell leads all Panther defense-man with 21 points (7 goals and 14 assists). The goaltending situation has been shaky for Florida with the loss of Tomas Vokoun to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jose Theodore, ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen, and Jacob Markstrom have all seen almost identical time in between the pipes for the Panthers this season. Markstrom with the best goals against average of the trifecta at 2.70 is expected to start tonight. He has played five of the last six games for the Panthers, and in those five games is 3-2-0.
New Jersey Devils
I know it’s premature to say this, but the Devils need a win tonight. They have been playing good hockey lately, but have let one point slip away in the last two games. Currently the Devils are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and not far from eighth and ninth. If you’re the Devils, you don’t want to be hovering on this line. And you need to beat the worst team in the league, no matter what! So who needs to step up?
I’m going to stick with what I’ve been saying lately. David Clarkson and Travis Zajac need to be more consistent offensive players, especially in Ilya Kovalchuk‘s absence. After scoring ten goals in the first 14 games of the season, Clarky has only lit the lamp twice in his last twenty games. Zajac has been having a down year in general. He has only scored five goals and has registered eight assists.
Tonight’s match-up is the second of three meetings this season. The Devils defeated the Panthers 2-1 exactly a week ago at the Prudential Center, and the teams will finish off the season series at the Rock on Saturday April 20 at 1:00 PM.
The Devils look to improve to 16-11-8, while the league worst Panthers are simply looking for something positive.