Panthers vs. Devils Preview
NEWARK, NJ (AP) - Following wins over two of the Eastern Conference's best teams, the New Jersey Devils will look to continue their resurgence against a fellow last-place club.
The Devils will try to extend their longest winning streak of the season to four games Sunday when they host the Florida Panthers, who begin a season-high six-game road trip.
After Martin Brodeur blanked Pittsburgh on Thursday night, Patrik Elias scored two goals as New Jersey (15-29-3) earned a point in a season-high sixth consecutive game with a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.
NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGlobal.com have made the Devils -130 money line favorites for Sunday's game against the Panthers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 88% of more than 7,017 bets for this game have been placed on the Panthers +120.
"It's encouraging out there," said Elias, who has four goals and four assists in his last six contests. "We're trying to keep each other up, trying to make each other better, keep making plays. I think that's been the biggest difference."
The Devils' winning streak got under way with a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday. They're 5-0-1 over the last six games with the only blemish being a 3-2 overtime loss to the Panthers on Jan. 15.
Though New Jersey remains at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, it's only four points behind the fourth-place Islanders. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder is quick to give coach Jacques Lemaire much of the credit for the turnaround after the Devils' stunningly poor start.
"He changed everything when he came here," Tallinder said of Lemaire, who replaced John MacLean on Dec. 23.
Johan Hedberg stopped 26 shots against the Flyers, but Brodeur should play against the Panthers. The league's all-time leader in wins and shutouts is 18-5-0 with three ties and a 1.87 goals-against average versus Florida at home.
He defeated the Panthers 2-0 during their last visit to New Jersey on Jan. 20, 2010 - one of his five career shutouts against them at home.
Since beating the Devils earlier this month, Florida has dropped three in a row all after regulation, including 2-1 in a shootout Friday to Tampa Bay amid some controversy.
After stopping the first two shooters he faced in the tiebreaker, Florida's Tomas Vokoun appeared to deny Dominic Moore, but a video review showed the Lightning's forward scored.
Florida (21-20-5) is last in the Southeast, but only five points from moving past Carolina into fourth place. Defenseman Jason Garrison knows the Panthers need to move on from the disappointing losses.
"Obviously we deserve more, but we can't complain," he said. "We just have to look to the games before the All-Star break and make sure we get points in all those games too."
Florida, which is 10-12-0 on the road, will also face the New York Rangers, Boston and Montreal - all currently among the top seven in the Eastern Conference - on its trip.
Vokoun is 1-2-2 with a 3.03 GAA in his last five starts. He has lost three straight in New Jersey while backup Scott Clemmensen, who was drafted by the Devils in 1997, is 3-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA against his former team. Clemmensen made 33 saves in the win over the Devils earlier this month.
Cory Stillman scored in the opening minute for the Panthers on Friday, and has two goals and five assists in a season-high six-game points streak. He has only a goal and two assists in his last 11 meetings with the Devils.