The New Jersey Devils will try to end their season-long losing streak on Saturday when they host the Florida Panthers in Newark, N.J.
One of the top teams in the league this season with a 21-7-2 record through 30 games, the Devils are on a four-game skid (0-3-1) and have lost back-to-back games in regulation against the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.
In both games the Devils were held to a single goal, falling 4-1 and 2-1, a rarity for a team that’s averaging 3.5 per game this season.
In Thursday’s game against Philadelphia, the Devils fired 49 shots but only beat Flyers goalie Carter Hart once in the loss.
“We came out great,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “Skated well in the first period, got a lot of pucks going to the net and had some good opportunities. We got in a little bit of penalty-killing trouble, which I think took some momentum out for a little bit. But I thought our penalty-killers did a great job, and after that, I thought we stepped on the gas again.”
In the game prior, the Devils had 36 shots but only scored once against Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood.
The Panthers are also looking to rebound from a loss after a 4-2 setback against the Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday.
“Five-on-five, I think we controlled a lot of the play,” forward Carter Verhaeghe said. “We still need to do a better job generating a little more, getting pucks to the net and getting some higher-quality looks.”
The Panthers have been dealing with a non-COVID illness among the team that’s left it short-handed.
Verhaeghe missed a win against the Columbus Blues Jackets on Tuesday, while Matthew Tkachuck missed the loss to Pittsburgh. With Tkachuck’s absence on Thursday, the Panthers had to play with just 17 skaters.
Tkachuk is expected to play against New Jersey and leads the Panthers with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 28 games. Verhaeghe is the Panthers’ second-leading scorer with 25 points (team-high 15 goals), followed by defenseman Brandon Montour with 24.
Jack Hughes leads the Devils with 16 goals and 35 points in 30 games. Jesper Bratt has 30 points (10 goals, team-best 20 assists) while Nico Hischier has 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points.
Power plays will be a focus going into this game. The Devils are trying to rectify theirs after failing during an extended 5-on-3 against the Flyers when it was a 2-1 game.
“Five-on-threes are key for sure,” Damon Severson said. “That can swing momentum one way or another. It’s too bad we didn’t score on that one, but we just have to keep playing.”
In goal, Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky has found his stride after some early season struggles. He had a 22-save shutout earlier this week against Columbus, and he played well against the Penguins despite the loss, with 35 saves on 38 shots.
Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves for the Devils in the loss to Philadelphia, and New Jersey will likely turn to Akira Schmid against Florida. Schmid made 28 saves earlier this week in the loss to Dallas.
–Field Level Media