The Time: 6:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN; Audio - The Devils Hockey Network
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils at the Florida Panthers (SBN Blog: Litter Box Cats)
The Last Devils Game: On Thursday night, the Devils lost a close game to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 in a shootout. Chris had the full recap here.
In that game, the Lightning struck first. Bratt thought he got to the puck first, but the refs called icing, and Colton scored after the ensuing faceoff. Tatar would tie it in the 2nd from Hischier and Mercer, but Stamkos would score in the final 2 minutes to give Tampa another lead. Meier scored to tie it in the 3rd, but Stamkos scored another one to give Tampa a 3-2 lead. Meier scored again to tie it. In overtime, Tampa was content to play slow and go for a shootout, a smart move with the Devils’ overtime success. It worked out for the Lightning, as they would go on to win the shootout 2-1.
The Last Panthers Game
The last Panthers game was a crazy 9-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The score was 7-3 15 minutes into the game.
The Panthers have been on fire lately, as like I mentioned earlier, they’ve collected 9 of 10 possible points in their last 5 games. They beat Vegas and Pittsburgh 2-1 and 4-1 during that stretch.
Overall it has been a very disappointing season for the Panthers. They won the presidents’ trophy last season and have a very good chance of missing the playoffs this season. Bobrovsky leads the goaltending with a barely over .900 sv%. Matthew Tkachuk leads the offense as one of two PPG players with 91 points in 65 games. Barkov is the other, with 58 points in 54 games. The Panthers are 6th in goals for, but with .903 and .901 goaltending from Bob and Knight, as well as losing defenseman Mackenzie Weegar in the Tkachuk trade, they are 23rd in goals against. They are 25th or worse in shooting, penalty minutes, penalty kill. I would say that they Devils should look to capitalize on the power play, but unfortunately they don’t seem to have one right now. Let’s hope they can get a power play goal tonight.
This will be the 3rd and final meeting of these 2 teams this season. The first two were split 1-1, with the away team winning 4-2 both times on December 17th and 21st. In the Devils’ win, Bratt and Hamilton had 2 points each and Blackwood had a .944 sv%. In the loss, Ekblad and Reinhart each had 2 points and Schmid allowed 3 goals on 28 shots.
The Panthers are on a roll and looking to squeak into the last wild card spot. The Devils should expect them to come out hard and keep fighting, as they need points. The Devils should try to capitalize on the Panthers’ bad penalty kill and below average defense and goaltending. If the Devils take advantage of their opportunities, this could be a game where they aren’t the better team but squeak out the win.
What do you think of tonight’s matchup? How about the Panthers making a last-minute playoff push? Opinions on the 6pm start time? If I could choose, I’d go for a 6:30 pm start time for most games. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.