The New Jersey Devils are starting to play better in their first season under Peter DeBoer. The Florida Panthers are playing well in their first under Kevin Dineen.
DeBoer will face his former team for the first time as he returns to Florida on Monday night with his Devils in search of a third straight win.
The Panthers (10-6-3) fired DeBoer after he failed to guide them to the playoffs in three seasons. Their 72 points in his final season in 2010-11 were the Eastern Conference's fewest.
"For a lot of reasons, I'd like to win that one," said DeBoer about Monday's matchup. "It will be interesting. I haven't been back to a place I've been fired before, so it will be a first-time experience for me. Listen, I had three great years there."
Florida is surprisingly in first place in the Southeast Division under Dineen, and its seven road wins are tied for the most in the league. The Panthers have been worse at home, but ended a 0-1-3 slide at the BankAtlantic Center with Saturday's 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh.
"It's huge. We've been decent on the road and not so great at home," center Stephen Weiss said. "The three shootout losses could have gone either way, but at the same time we've got to find a way to get two points at home. We were able to do that tonight against a real good hockey team."
Weiss averaged 56.7 points per season under DeBoer, but is well on pace to surpass that with 18 points in 19 games. He had a goal and two assists Saturday for his second three-point effort in three contests.
"Stephen is really the guy that runs the engine right now," Dineen said. "He does so many good things for us and tonight he needed to do it on the defensive side and then he had three points."
New Jersey (10-7-1) brought in DeBoer after seeing its streak of playoff appearances end at 13. The Devils have won six of eight, improving to 3-1-0 on this five-game trip with Saturday's 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.
"It's all about winning games," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I thought we played an extremely disciplined game."
These teams split four meetings last season, although both Florida victories went to overtime. Brodeur went 2-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average in three starts in those games.
The veteran superstar has won both of his outings on this road trip, making 21 saves Saturday.
"Another good game for Marty," DeBoer said. "He's a calming presence back there for us when you need him."
DeBoer is not the only one returning to Florida with the Devils. Ryan Carter was waived by the Panthers on Oct. 25 and picked up by New Jersey the next day. Carter had a goal and an assist Saturday.
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