Panther defenceman Keith Ballard has become quite the “You Tube” performer this season and unfortunately for him, not for the right reasons. First his baseball style swing of frustration after a goal was scored, hitting Panther goaltender Tomas Vokoun square in the head earlier this season. Then Tuesday night’s “handball” swing at a puck that went right under Vokoun’s pad and into the net, have both made Ballard a rock star hero on the internet. He’s probably searched more than Erin Andrews and Tiger Woods. Well, maybe not, but close eh?
If Ballard does anything that resembles additional tomfoolery tonight, he can always say “The Devil Made Me Do It”, as the New Jersey Devils come to South Florida for a night of exceptionally boring hockey. If you think watching the Panthers play lately is dull, wait till these two teams face off tonight. While both teams are not offensive jauggernauts, even though the Devils have Ilya Kovalchuk to show off, they both rely on a defensive style of game, clogging up the middle of the ice, and strong goaltending. For the Devils this has been working quite nicely as they currently are second in the Eastern Conference and have given up the least amount of goals in the NHL at 186.
Scoring on the other hand finds New Jersey sitting at 24th overall, while the Panthers are 28th. However the Panthers at this point in the season have a depleted defence. Relying mostly on veteran Bryan McCabe, rookie Dmiltry Kulikov and the aforementioned Keith Ballard to saok up the ice time. The Panthers defence has been a mess especially since the trading of Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg at the trade deadline. Two moves that in my mind are the direct result of Tomas Vokoun having lost his last seven starts.
The Devils who acquired Kovalchuk in their effort to make a strong push for the Stanley Cup this season, feel that they have now the perfect balance between offence and defence and when you have Marty Brodeur as your goaltender, you probably don’t have to score too much anyway. The Devils are coming off back to back wins on this current road trip and are seeking their fourth division title in five seasons. A win tonight by New Jersey, coupled with a Pittsburgh loss, clinches the title.
For a more in depth look at the Devils go see our good friend Kevin Whalen over at pucksandpitchforks.
Brodeur is coming off of his 600th career victory and his 110th career shutout, a marvelous achievement all with one team, the Devils. Kovlachuk has 11 points in his last eight games, and veteran Patrik Elias has nine points in his last eight. Also look out for Zach Parise, one of the rising stars of the NHL. Parise has 77 points which include 37 goals, and also is a plus 21.
The Panthers who are struggling terrbily to score goals, could give Brodeur his third consecutive shutout if they fail to find the back of the net. A distinct possibility as Florida has again gone into another goal scoring drought, having not been able to score more than two goals in their last 7 games. The last three Panther goals have been scored by Ballard (2) and Kamil Kreps, who has a whopping five on the season. During this seven game stretch the Panthers are 1-5-1 and have fallen to 13th in the East as they gear up for a potential top three draft pick in this year’s upcoming draft.
That’s about all there is to look forward to here in the Sunshine State.
Unless of course you’re hoping for another Keith Ballard highlight!
I wonder what’s in the Panther’s dressing room that causes each player’s hockey sense and or skill level to disappear like a Albert Pujols home run shot. Oh, sorry wrong sport.
Keith? Don’t forget your bat stick.
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