Hanging on to playoffs hopes is what the Florida Panthers are trying to do at this point in the season. As luck would have it, these playoff hopes are fading fast, and by facing a red hot New Jersey Devils team tonight, life is not going to by any easier. The Devils who beat the New York Rangers last night are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The Devils who had been last in the Eastern Conference for most of this season are now in 14th place and 18 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Could you imagine if they made the playoffs and the Panthers who are only 7 points out don’t?
New Jersey has won 10 of the last 12 contests on home ice against Florida and has outscored the Panthers 39-19 during that span. fortunately word out of New jersey is that Marty Brodeur will not be starting tonight, and Johan Hedberg will be getting the call in net. Good thing as Marty is 15-4-0 with a 1.90 GAA in his last 19 home starts against Florida.
Brian Rolston a player who was placed on and has cleared waivers earlier this season is on a bit of a tear right now. Rolston has five goals, eight assists and is a plus 10 in the last 10 games he has played. Rolston had a goal and an assist in the last game that the Devils played the Panthers. All-Star representative Patrik Elias has 12 points in his last 10 games himself.
The leading goal scorer for the Devils is Ilya Kovalchuk who has 15. Ironically so does Stephen Weiss of the Panthers. While Weiss has goals in his last two games, prior to that he was in a goal scoring drought as are many of his teammates. Michael Frolik hasn’t scored since December 17th. I feel like a broken record with that statement, but it’s the truth. David Booth has only one point in his last 6 games. Steve Bernier has all but become invisible in the scoring department. A true disappointment at this point, Bernier must step up his game.
The top six of Florida has only Cory Stillman showing consistent effort. Stillman who most likely is a goner by the trade deadline has been playing extremely well for the Panthers, and has added some timely goals. If his trade value goes up because of that, then his effort will be greatly appreciated. I just don’t see him surviving a roster purge, which most certainly is coming in the next few weeks.
Tomas Vokoun will be in goal tonight instead of former Devil Scott Clemmensen. Vokoun was in goal Wednesday against the Canadiens in the 3-2 loss, where Vokoun made 38 saves. Regardless of the fact that the Panthers are playing hard, they have not been able to close the deal in many games.
The old sayings are getting to be just that. Old. You can slap all the cliche’s in here that you want, but the bottom line is that this team needs to play a full 60 minutes of desperation hockey tonight. Get the lead and get it early. Keep it and put the pedal to the floor. No let up and no let down. I am in now way shape or form saying that playoffs are a possibility at this point, but this team needs to play as though they want to make it. Their playoff lives really are hanging.
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