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Game Preview: New Jersey Devils at the Florida Panthers

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The Devils go to Sunrise, Florida to take on a rising Panthers squad.

NHL: Florida Panthers at New Jersey Devils
After weeks without him, I'm looking forward to having Schneider in the stretch run.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (33-22-8) versus the Florida Panthers (29-25-6). SBN Blog: Litter Box Cats.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

A Team Desperate to Climb: In the current post-reason era of the Florida Panthers organization, they’ve been carried by a few players who have been at an elite level. Aleksander Barkov, who is a top-tier two-way center, has 59 points in as many games. He is not only elite at even strength play, but has five shorthanded goals this season while only being on the ice for seven power play goals against in 114 minutes in that capacity. On his left is almost always Jonathan Huberdeau, who has 57 points in 60 games. As the mainstays of the top line, they need to be shut down tonight. Vincent Trocheck has been a pleasant surprise - also with 57 points in 60 games. 20 of his points, and 11 of his 24 goals, have come on the power play. His previous career highs were 54 total points, and 13 power play points.

The Panthers are currently standing at 64 points - five behind Columbus for the second wild card with three games at hand. They’re coming into the night on a three game win streak, having won ten of their past 13 games.

Roberto Luongo, since returning from injury on February 17, is 4-1-0 with a .926 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. On the season, Luongo is 10-7-1 in 20 appearances with a .927 save percentage and 2.61 goals against average. If Luongo can stay healthy the rest of the season, there is a solid chance the Panthers are carried by the production of their top six forwards into the playoffs when not hindered by James Reimer’s play.

Devils Lines Notes: He’s back:

The practice lines today:

I like lines one and three, but personally I would flip Patrick Maroon with Stefan Noesen. Maroon has more offensive touch than Noesen, so I think he’d be better with Travis Zajac and Michael Grabner. I also wonder whether a center/wing combination of Brian Boyle and Patrick Maroon might move up the ice too slowly.

Power Play shakeup: John Hynes has changed the power play to accommodate his newest acquisition, who makes his debut tonight.

I do wonder about that second unit. Keeping both Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha off while Zajac, Boyle, and Noesen are on the power play makes me scratch my head a bit. I also disagree with the usage of two defensemen on the second unit. I do like Severson’s game, but I don’t think that second unit will perform well entirely.

Your Thoughts: What are your thoughts on tonight’s game? Do you think the Panthers will continue on their hot streak, or will they fall back to their early season inefficiencies? Are you excited to have Cory Schneider back? What do you think about the lines and power play units? Leave your thoughts below.