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Game Preview #11: New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers

The Panthers finally lost their first regulation game of the season last night. Can the Devils make it two in a row for them?

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils
The Bratt-concentration face
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (5-3-2) versus the Florida Panthers (10-1-1). SBN Blog: Litter Box Cats.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: ESPN+, Hulu (Really? Three out of four?)

Incoming Call-Ups

The New Jersey Devils appear to be making some moves, as they have decided to send Marian Studenic and Frederik Gauthier to the Utica Comets. Of course, these leaves the vaunted two-way option, Mason Geertsen, on the roster. I mean, sure, Gauthier was at least a good enough penalty killer, but Geertsen can provide four to eight minutes of hockey on either end of the ice. So who’s really better?

Anyways, there are several candidates among the Utica Comets to take their spots in the bottom six. Chase De Leo currently leads Utica with 12 points in 7 games, while Jesper Boqvist and Tyce Thompson have eight and seven, respectively. Thompson leads those three with four goals, however, and I think the Devils are going to center their attention on the goal scorer. I think a possible under-the-radar option is Nate Schnarr, who provides the much-wanted size standing at 6’4”, while he currently has two goals and three assists in five games.

The Hard-to-Beat Panthers

Well, the Florida Panthers have certainly had a roller coaster year so far. Their ex-head coach, Joel Quenneville, “resigned” following the investigation that revealed his hand in the coverup of Brad Aldrich’s assault of Kyle Beach. Since then, they have been coached by Andrew Brunette, who has seen his team go 3-1-1 since taking over. Aside from his 1100+ game playing career, Brunette was previously an assistant for the Minnesota Wild for two years and their assistant general manager for three. Since 2019, he has been a member of Joel Quenneville’s staff in Florida, having played for Quenneville and Chicago in Brunette’s last NHL season in 2011-12.

The Panthers are a deeper, better team than they have been. But currently, they are dealing with a few injuries. Sam Bennett, who has seven points in eight games, did not play last night. Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 6-0-0 with a .948 save percentage and 1.72 goals against average, did not play last night.

Barkov had one assist last night for the Panthers against the Rangers, who nearly blew a multi-goal lead for the second time in four days (after their terrible late-game performance against Edmonton on Friday). After being up 4-0, the Panthers put three goals on Shesterkin in the third period. Shesterkin had to face 45 total shots from the Panthers. Meanwhile, Spencer Knight gave up four goals on 18 shots.

If Bobrovsky does not return tonight, the likely starter would be Chris Gibson. Gibson, 28, has an .882 save percentage in four AHL games this year, having last played a full season in 2019-20 when he had a .914 save percentage for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 25 games. In his NHL career, he is 4-5-3 with a .901 save percentage and 3.33 goals against average.

As for who will be on the ice - the Panthers currently have five players with 10 or more points. Alexsander Barkov has seven goals and six assists in 11 games. Anthony Duclair has eight goals and four assists in only 13:56 ice time per game in 12 appearances. Jonathan Huberdeau has 12 points in 12 games, while Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart both have 10 points. 15 players have at least one goal for the Panthers, while 13 players have two or more goals. Conversely, only 11 players on the Devils have scored, and only eight have scored twice or more. The Devils do have two games on hand, but the scoring has been much more reliable from the Panthers’ depth, as they have 49 team goals in 12 games.

The Keys to Tonight

Do not take penalties, and do not get frustrated by the power play. The Panthers currently have a 25.00% power play success rate, and an 84.44% penalty kill success rate . The Panthers are full of offensive threats, and the Devils will basically have to win tonight by playing keep-away and putting on an effective forecheck. This means Lindy Ruff cannot and should not play Mason Geertsen - and look for the most effective four lines he can run. The Panthers also take a lot of penalties, with nearly four per game (45 power plays against) - so the Devils will need to make the most of their five-on-five time.

The Panthers play high-event hockey, averaging 34.6 shots per game and 31.25 against. However, with their team shooting percentage of 11.8%, the Devils will need to do their best to limit shots against from the slot, and allow Mackenzie Blackwood to stay strong in net. This means that Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton need to play most of the minutes against the opposing top six - especially the Barkov line. Jonas Siegenthaler and P.K. Subban will have to deal with a tough middle-six assignment whenever Anthony Duclair steps onto the ice - but I think I would rather see them face down Duclair than Smith and Severson right now.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be able to watch? Who do you think the Devils should call up? How do you feel about possibly playing against Chris Gibson, rather than Sergei Bobrovsky or Spencer Knight? What do you make of the Panthers? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.