Two more days, and playoff hockey comes to South Florida. In the meantime, we sit and bide our time (and maybe watch some other playoff hockey). What do the Devils have in store for the Panthers beginning this Friday night? What is Kevin Dineen's game plan? Who does he have slated to start in net? Will Sean Bergenheim step up like he did for the Bolts last season? Will KD continue to roll out Versteeg-Weiss-Fleischmann in hopes of rekindling the early season magic? Will Brian Campbell continue to be the one of the top quarterbacks on the power play in the NHL? Will Wojtek Wolski continue to impress in hopes of landing a contract moving forward? These questions are hard to answer until gametime. For now, let's take a look across enemy lines and Scout our opponents - it may be a Rockie ride.
Read on for a breakdown of the Devils, after the jump.
First Line: Zach Parise (31G, 38A) - Travis Zajac (2G, 4A) - Ilya Kovalchuk (37G, 46A)
We are all aware of the scoring prowess of Zach Parise (career 11.4% shooting percentage, six time 30-goal scorer) and Ilya Kovalchuk (six time 40-goal scorer, 14.3% career shooting percentage), the real wildcard on the first line is center Travis Zajac. Limited to 15 games this season due to a recurring issue with his right achilles tendon, Zajac is a good two-way center with a knack for winning faceoffs. His weakness is in his (lack of) speed. Shutting down the Devils scoring is of the utmost importance, but first and foremost the top line must be contained.
Second Line: Petr Sykora (21G, 23A) - Patrik Elias (26G, 52A) - Dainius Zubrus (17G, 27A)
In spite of his stat line, Sykora isn't the same hockey player as he was on his first tour with the Devils. However, he lines up at all three forward positions as needed and occasionally gets hot. In 16 seasons with the Devils, Elias hasn't declined at all. He's quick, clever, and consistent, but prone to turning the puck over when pressured in the corners. Zubrus, in his 15th NHL season, is an excellent puck possession skater. He converted almost 16% of his shots this season, and his 17 goals rank sixth on the team. The second line is nearly as dangerous as the first line. I've heard talk of the Devil's being a one line team, but don't believe it - these guys can sink us just as fast.
Third Line: Alexei Ponikarovsky (7G, 11A) - Adam Henrique (16G, 35A) - David Clarkson (30G, 16A)
Ponikarovsky lacks a true killer instinct and is not a natural goal scorer, but in only 33 games this season has registered a plus-nine, indicative of his puck possession skills. This will be the first postseason appearance for Henrique, and Clarkson is a pest. Watch for this line to try to stir things up and draw some instigator penalties.
Fourth Line: Ryan Carter (4G, 4A) - Brian Gionta (1G, 0A) - Steve Bernier (1G, 5A)
We could call this the expatriate line. Carter played with the Panthers for 19 games between last season and this one before being placed on waivers, and Bernier spent 68 games last season in Sunrise. Gionta is a veteran of all of 13 NHL games, including one this season. Maybe this is the line that will be out to prove something, but I think it may be the real weakness in the lineup.
Tune in tomorrow for a breakdown of the goaltending and the defense.