Game 30 Preview: New Jersey Devils at Florida Panthers

The Time: 7:30 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+, Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (15-13-1) at the Florida Panthers (16-9-5).

The Last Devils Game: The Devils must not like early leads in the state of Florida. Up 2-0 early in the first period, the lethargic Devils allowed Tampa Bay to quickly get back into the game and end the first period tied 2-2. Luckily there was no collapse. Early in the second period the Captain, Zach Parise took over. Parise had a major hand in the next three Devils goals with one goal and two assists. His shorthanded goal was the result of hard work in front of the net and his speed helped create easy goals for Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique. It wasn't a perfect game as there was spotty defensive play out of Adam Larsson, Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina, but Johan Hedberg made some timely saves to help preserve a 5-4 win. With the win the Devils win both games in Tampa this year and move to 9-8-0 on the road.

The Last Panther Game: The Florida Panthers visited the most overrated sports venue in the world Sunday night and got their tails handed to them, falling 6-1 to the New York Rangers. The Panthers were in the game until the 2nd period when the Rangers blew open a 2-1 lead with 4 unanswered goals. Starting goaltender Jose Theodore was pulled after letting up 5 goals in two periods, giving way to former Devil Scott Clemmenson. Theodore didn't play bad as his defense left him out to dry a few times. He did however let up some juicy rebounds that the Rangers took advantage of. Speaking of goalies, if you want to see one of the better goaltender dives of the century go to the:30 mark of the highlights via NHL.com. After a little contact Henrik Lundqvist had a fall to the ice in which he embellished a little bit. Assuming of course, he was pretending to be impaled by a trident on the ice. The Litter Box Cat's Ryan Meier had all the gory details here.

The Last Devils-Panthers Game: Let me take you back to November 21st. The Devils, winners of two in a row, had just built a 3-0 lead on the Florida Panthers in the first period. Everything was going well. The Devils were delivering a swift defeat to their coach's former employer. I wouldn't be surprised if some folks turned their televisions or radios off at this point. This is the Devils right? Blow a 3-0 lead? Never. Well, those folks were wrong. After letting a feisty Panthers team back into the game with two second period goals, the Devils came out and played a sloppy third period. The sloppiness cost them a point or two as the Panthers battled back to win the game 4-3. John was tasked with the recap that night and you can see his thoughts on that game here. Ryan Meier of the Litter Box Cat's had the opposition's recap here.

The Goal: Don't blow a 3-0 lead. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well, it's something the Devils could not do the last time they were in Sunrise, Florida. Plus they almost blew a 3 goal lead last night. The Devils need to generate some better chances on even-strength, help provide sheltered minutes for Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina (or will Kurtis Foster be in the lineup), be aggressive on the forecheck and play smart on special teams. With Anton Volchenkov and Andy Greene out the Devils margin for error, especially in the defensive zone has decreased. Greene was a solid defensive partner for Adam Larsson and Volchenkov was quietly having a nice bouncback season. He has been one of the keys to the Devils successful penalty kill. Larsson, Henrik Tallinder, Mark Fayner and Bryce Salvador will have more heavy lifting to do tonight, and while I don't think the back-to-back games will bother them that much, keep an eye out for the ice-time Peter DeBoer gives his defensemen in Monday night's game.

For our opponent's view, please hop over to Litter Box Cats.

After the jump I have a few more thoughts on this game.

The Millenium Line: Patrik Elias, Danius Zubrus and Petr Sykora (named the Millenium Line by WFAN's Sherry Ross) played very well against Florida in the Devils last meeting. Taking a look back at the even-strength Corsi/Fenwick charts via TimeOnIce here you can see that trio was the most effective Devils unit that night. That said, the trio has slumped a bit lately and could use a bounceback game.

Capatilize on Matchups: Looking at the even strength ice-time of the Panthers defense it's pretty apparent that Brian Campbell/Jason Garrison are the team's 1st defensive pairing followed by Dmirty Kulikov/Mike Weaver as the 2nd pairing. The third? A mixture of Erik Gundbradson, Ed Jovanoski and Keaten Ellerby. Judging by their possession stats, the pairing you want to exploit is the third. It may only be on the ice for 10-12 minutes, but it is important for the Devils to capitalize if they see those defenders on the ice.

Contain the Panthers top line: Stephen Weiss/Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg have been buzzing so far this year and the Devils need to focus on shutting them down. They are all point-per game players with a plus/minus rating of either +16 or +17. That said, they are not a dominating possession line. Once that group slows down a bit, expect their points/rating to drop a bit.

With a depleted defensive corps, expect to see a defensive combination of Henrik Tallinder/Bryce Salvador/Mark Fayne and the Millenium Line out there against the Panthers top line often. If the Devils get in a situation where Adam Larsson or Alexander Urbom are going up against this line, the Devils might be in for a long night. And remember, since they are at home the Panther have the last change before a faceoff.

Special Teams: One area where the Devils and Panther have been similar is the number of times each team has been shorthanded. The Devils (as of writing) have been shorthanded 85 times this year, while the Panthers have been shorthanded 87 times. They rank one-two in the league in this category. In other words, don't expect a lot of power plays in this game.

One area where the teams differ is the number of power play opportunities they have had. The Devils have had 103 power play opportunities which ranks 22nd in the league. The Panthers on the other hand have had 125 power play opportunities which ranks 5th in the league. The Panthers, in the lower third of the league during Peter DeBoer's three years as coach, have a power play conversion rate of 19.2% good for eighth in the league.

Goaltending Matchup: It will once again be Martin Brodeur in the net for the Devils, with Jose Theodore likely for the Panthers. Brodeur could certainly use a bounceback effort after his struggles in recent games. His game versus Montreal wasn't bad, but the Devils could sure use a Marty shutout one of these nights.

The New Guy: As we all probably know the Devils made a trade right before the game yesterday. They moved Rod Pelley, Mark Fraser and a 7th round draft pick in 2012 to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Kurtis Foster and minor league goaltender Timo Pielmeier. Foster, the defenseman is a power play specialist who played in Tampa when Adam Oates was coaching there. He will man the point on the power play and if used correctly could be a low risk, high reward acquisition for the Devils. I hope he is more Marc-Andre Bergeron and not like Cory Murphy. I don't have fond memories of the Cory Murphy era.

So what are you looking for in tonight's game? Do you think the back-to-back games will hurt the Devils considering the short defensive rotation they had last night? Can the Captain put together back-to-back spectacular games? Will Kurtis Foster play tonight and if he does, is Matt Taormina the odd man out? Sound off below with your comments and thanks for reading.

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