With three shootouts in their last four contests, the Panthers are coming into New Jersey hoping to get a decisive win in regulation. The Cats survived a much more competitive Sabres squad Thursday evening, winning 2-1 in a shootout and earning an important two points on this current three-game road trip. The Devils are coming off of a 1-0 shutout against the Dallas Stars as Cory Schneider posted 26 saves in the effort. Both teams are near the bottom of their respective divisions, but the Devils are playing a much more consistent brand of defensive hockey than the Panthers, as evidenced by Schneider's 2.02 GAA.
What the Devils don't do, however, is score goals, much like the Panthers. Both teams sit at 104 goals so far this season, good for third-lowest in the league. I think it's safe to say we should expect another defensive yawner in this game, especially if both teams can stay out of the penalty box. The Cats power play continues to perform as well as Chris Christie as a traffic cop, while the PK seems to be recovering though is still second last in the league. The key to this game for the Panthers will once again be discipline, as the Devils sport a power play that is far more effective than Florida's. The Panthers are capable of hanging with just about any team at even strength when they're skating for a full 60 minutes, so the gameplan should be to keep things even and outwork the Devils on their own ice
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Players to Watch
Michael Ryder - Ryder's been about the only Devil to find the back of the net on a consistent basis as of late, scoring six goals over the last ten games. He's always been a finisher and the Devils were wise to add him after Zach Parise bolted for Minnesota and Ilya Kovalchuk lost his mind and fled the country. Ryder's going to need to be played off the puck as much as on it if the Panthers want to keep him out of the high-percentage scoring areas.
Nick Bjugstad - Bjugstad's been quiet lately... very quiet. After a very successful December, he hasn't registered a point in five games and doesn't seem to be exerting himself using his speed and size as he was a couple of weeks ago. The Panthers badly need scoring depth and Bjugstad needs to get going to give the Cats a second line capable of helping out the Killer B's line.
Cory Schneider - Despite playing extremely well, Schneider's record isn't solid simply because he has gotten terrible goal support. The Devils have only scored eight goals in his last five starts, something Schneider is aware of because he's playing out of his mind lately. The Devils are traditionally a very defensive team but Schneider has stood on his head at times, keeping the Devils in games and allowing them to win despite the anemic offense. Sounds familiar, no?