The Florida Panthers roll into New Jersey tonight to take on a Devils team that is coming off their first shutout loss of the year, and also has a three game losing streak going. Pissed off and with revenge in their blood, I would expect this to be a diffcult game for any opponent, let alone the Panthers. Florida is riding a three game winning streak for the third time this year, but let’s not get ready to buy our playoff seats yet. We beat Tampa twice and Atlanta after giving up a three goal lead to the Washington Capitals, a team that played the night before!
So what do we have, another tease? Or are the Panthers ready to make a real move in the playoff hunt? For starters, Tomas Vokoun has continued his stellar play in goal as of late and is 2-0-0 in his last two starts with a 1.00 GAA. Surely without him, we wouldn’t even be sniffing a playoff spot, so hat’s off to Vokoun as he’s showing why he’s still one of the top goalies in the NHL. Beware though, he’s streaky and that can be a problem when you don’t have alot of scoring and when your defence isn’t the best. He really can’t afford a lapse because of that. Former Devil goalie and now Panther backup Scott Clemmensen gets to sit this one out as coach DeBoer is staying with the hot hand in Vokoun.
Secondary scoring has started to make it’s way into the Panthers game results as Rusty and Cory Stillman are finding the net finally, picking up the slack of the top line who will most likely be without Stevie Wonder as he continues to nurse what ever lower body injury he continues to suffer from. (Boo hoo). Nathan Horton has cooled off slightly, and at times looks like he’s all over the place, creating nothing other than chaos. He needs to settle down, find a spot on the ice to work with and let his other linemates do the board work.
The Devils are currently third in the Eastern Conference with their recent slide, although only three points out of the top spot, will try to get revenge against the Panthers who beat them last time. Head coach Jacques Lemaire admitted that they have looked tired and needed some rest during this last spell, and one player that couldn’t argue with that was goalie Marty Brodeur who has started 26 games in a row! He was given the third period off in their last game Monday night against the Islanders after giving up 4 goals in the first two periods.
Zach Parise leads the Devils in goals with 20 and points with 47, as he continues to build a solid career for himself here and remains an offensive force as New Jersey’s number one player. Behind Brodeur of course. The Devils will be playing without forward Patrick Elias who left Saturday night’s game on a stretcher after a hit against the Colorado Avalanche. No specifics on his injury other than he’s listed as day to day.
The Panthers are in the eleventh spot in the East with 50 points, two points out of eighth. A win would tie them with the Islanders, and set up Thursday night’s game in fine fashion.
Who shows up for Florida is the buring question right now. This game is a must win, and while the Islander game is just as important, they can’t look forward to that one just yet. Winning against the Devils and losing to the Isles will accomplish nothing. Neither will the opposite. There are four points to be had against teams that are ahead of us. Those are the points that we need, and good teams take those points. The Devils are frustrated, and the Panthers are, well frustrating. Can’t say how this one goes, but it’s a real test.
Take a look at Pucks and Pitchforks for a Jersey Shore angle!
Beat Jersey, beat the Islanders, and then maybe you might have something to go on.
In the meantime don’t get your playoff tickets yet. Matter of fact, I can’t wait to see my renewal package for next year’s seats. Joking! It’s friggin’ January and we’re talking renewal? PR has never been one of the Panther’s strengths, and this blunder manuever proves it once again.
By the way, in case you missed it forward Petr Sykora has been placed on waivers by the Minnesota Wild. Anyone have his number to pass along to Randy Sexton? I say grab him, there’s nothing to lose.
Thanks for reading.