First off game time is 5:00 P.M. tonight. Something that caught me by surprise this morning. Or should I say that it was caused by a memory lapse? Either way the red hot New Jersey Devils come to town on an 8-1-1 streak in their last 1o games, as they continue an improbable run to the playoffs. Have to hand it to them, as they are causing everyone to take notice after being in such a fog for most of the year.
Ilya Kovalchuk is red hot as well as he is on a 12 game point streak, and Johan Hedberg is 3-1-0 in his last four starts with a 0.75 GAA and a .967 save percentage during that time. One thing to keep in mind that while New Jersey has only lost four of it’s last 20 games, two of those losses were against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are looking to win the season series for the first time since 1996-1997. Oh the memories!
Both teams are still mathematically in the race, you get the feeling that at least here in Florida those playoff hopes have been dashed. It usually happens when you trade your captain which Florida did on Saturday when they sent Bryan McCabe to the New York Rangers for Tim Kennedy and a third round draft pick. The roster for Florida will look much different to the Devils than the last time they played, as Cory Stillman, Michael Frolik have also been dealt away. Alexander Sulzer a defenceman picked up from Nashville appeared in Friday night’s game against Atlanta and played a steady and serviceable 20 minutes.
Injuries have hit the Cats hard as Chris Higgins will be out a few weeks with a broken thumb sustained in Friday’s shootout win over Atlanta. Rusty Olesz is out for the season after a knee injury from an awkward hit by Mark Stuart in that same game. Kendall McArdle and Hugh Jessiman who was part of the return on the Michael Frolik deal with Chicago will play this evening. Jessiman a first round draft pick in 2003 has yet to suit up for an NHL game. Tonight will be his debut. The injury to Olesz further cements the ridiculous contract that he was given by Jacques Martin three seasons ago. Olesz has yet to complete a full season in the NHL and has only six goals this year. Once again, thanks Uncle Jack. You continue to remind us of the mistakes you made, even though your no longer here.
The Panthers have lost seven of their last eight home games and will look to stop the bleeding of that tonight. While trade talk as allegedly stricken the dressing room and been on the minds of the players, things must go on, and they must prepare regardless. The Panthers remain eight points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Not totally eliminated but with the roster on the ice and with the way some of the other teams ahead of them are playing, the mountain is getting steeper.
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