The New Jersey Devils are flying high to the point of " ballin' " with a 4 game winning streak wherein they have scored 20 goals in regulation in each of those games. They take on the Florida Panthers in their second game on this 5 game road trip. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they will have to contend with a Devils team where Dainius Zubrus is coming off a 4 goal game in a 7-3 beatdown of the Lightning from Sunday. At least the Panthers have won their last game to give them a little momentum. It was a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday that saw Greg Campbell re-take the Panthers' lead in the second and the team holding on in the third to win it. In the NHL.com recap, Bryan McCabe called it a "character win." Let's see if character can carry the day over a Devils team that now suddenly has this lethal offense.
The last Devils game against Florida, while crucial, wasn't exactly the prettiest game around. There were a lot of missed shots and blocked shots from both sides; but the true beauty of goal scoring fell on the side of the Devils that night to win 3-1. Yes, I couldn't be any more pretentious in that last sentence. I don't expect this upcoming game to be an easy one, if the last game was any indication. Hopefully, the Devils won't be outplayed in the second like they did on Thursday, even though their one shot on net was the game's first goal.
Looking at the Panthers, George Richards of On Frozen Pond (a Miami Herald Panthers blog) has reported that Richard Zednik hurt his elbow in the win over Carolina. He understands that it's substantial and he'll be out for weeks. I think it's safe to assume he won't be playing against the Devils. The other notable story of recent interest from Richards is that Wade Belak cleared waivers. Richards explores the rationale involved. I think it's because he's not a good hockey player, but that's just me based on what I've seen of him. Regardless, he could play against the Devils; but I don't think it will mean much unless he has the game of his life. Other than that, it seems the Devils just need to attack the Panthers' defense and their goaltender (I assume Tomas Vokoun) based on what the defense will allow. Given what they let up last Thursday, it could be a lot - the Devils just have to stay calm and not force pucks through players.
With respect to the Devils, John Madden appears to be out for the Florida game according to what Tom Gulitti reports at Fire & Ice. He is skating, as are Bobby Holik, Brian Rolston, and Andy Greene. So did Mike Mottau, but he wasn't injured; he will serve his last game of the suspension tonight. Regardless, it is very good news and a reminder that not only are the Devils hot, they are hot while missing a number of regulars. From the same post (and based on how well they worked on Sunday), I expect the lines to be the same - to start, at least. So best of luck to the Florida defense in handling two blazing scoring lines in Elias-Zubrus-Gionta and Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner! The only question mark going into tonight's game other than, "Can the Devils keep the fire burning?" is "Who's going to start in net?" Gulitti tried to get an answer from Brent Sutter, but to no avail. Given the team's recent performance and that they had 2 days off, I expect it to be Scott Clemmensen again. Other than wanting to give Kevin Weekes a shot, I see no reason based on performance reason to not start Clemmensen. Two of Tampa Bay's goals on Sunday came from Lightning players right around the net in a spot Clemmensen couldn't have gotten to. They really could have been prevented by the defense. The penalty shot is what it was; I'm not sure why Jay Pandolfo went for the legs like he did, but that was that.
In any case, the Devils can keep up the momentum churning, let's see if they will actually do that against Florida. It would be in their best interest to build up any and all momentum for a visit to division rivals (and the team ahead of the Devils in the division) Pittsburgh on Saturday. As always, feel free to leave comments and such about the game - before, during, and after. Just keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it New Jersey.