The Florida Panthers wrap up their season series with the New Jersey Devils today in a 1:00 matinee game. On a saturday that is straight stacked with intriguing sporting events, the Panthers-Devils clash may get buried but even though both teams are out of the playoffs (okay the Devils still have a .1% chance of qualifying) there remain some interesting aspects to the game.
After being knocked out of last year’s playoffs by the Devils, the Panthers would love to gain a modicum of revenge by taking this season’s series. The two teams split their previous match ups and tonight’s winner will walk away with the season series. While the game lacks any playoff implications, hopefully the dislike engendered in the playoffs last years helps create a spirited affair regardless of the games relative import.
Florida has been struggling all season but luckily for their fans, the team has not gone through a stretch like the one the Devils recently came out of. Before their 3-0 win over the Flyers on Thursday, the Devils had gone winless in their last 10 putting together an 0-6-4 record and falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Panthers seem to be intent on capturing that number one draft pick. The team has lost four straight and have been outscored 21-6 in those games. As far as I am concerned, there are two main reasons to tune into todays game. The first is to watch Jonathan Huberdeau in his race for the rookie scoring title. Huberdeau managed the only Panthers goal in their 6-1 drubbing against the Rangers on Thursday. It was a very impressive goal with Huberdeau executing a nice deke to open up space to snap a shot past Henrik Lundqvist. The goal was only Huberdeau’s second in his past 18 games. His main competition for the title Cory Conacher also tallied a goal to keep within one point of Huberdeau.
The second reason to watch today is to see which Jacob Markstrom will show up. The team would love Markstrom to step up and seize the number one goaltender position but his play recently suggests he may not be ready. In his last four games, all loses, Markstrom has a .817 Sv % and in two of those games he was pulled in favor of Scott Clemmensen. Nothing would make Panther fans and Panther management happier than seeing Markstrom close out the season with a stretch of strong play.
Enjoy the game today, feel free to share your thoughts and don’t forget to follow us on twitter @fansidedtherat.