TV: FS-Florida, MSG PLUS 2
LAST 10: Florida 4-3-3; New Jersey 6-2-2
Season series: This is the fourth and final meeting between the Devils and Panthers this season. The Devils have won the last two, including a 5-2 win at Prudential Center on Jan. 6.
Big Story: Florida has a chance to take a two-point lead over the Capitals in the Southeast Division-- but if the Panthers lose in regulation, they'll drop back down to ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are just hoping to keep their climb going. They are up to fifth in the East, three points behind the Flyers for fourth and one point ahead of the sixth-place Penguins.
Panthers: Florida's 3-1 win against Los Angeles on Thursday coupled with Washington's shootout loss to Winnipeg put the Panthers back in first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers lead the Capitals due to the games-played tiebreaker, but they can go ahead in points on Saturday.
"It was a really key game for us (Thursday night), but more than that we need to stay relevant," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after Thursday's win over Los Angeles. "We want to stay part of the picture."
The Panthers, though, haven't found a lot of success on the road as of late. They are 1-6-4 in their last 11 games away from BankAtlantic Center and have been outscored 48-19 in those games. They are 11-12-4 on the road this season; the only division leader with a losing record away from home.
Devils: They suffered a shootout loss to St. Louis on Saturday, their first blemish in six games since the All-Star break, but the Devils have points in seven straight games (5-0-2) dating back to a shootout loss to Buffalo in the final game before the All-Star break.
Their hot streak has coincided with tremendous two-way play from Ilya Kovalchuk and hot sticks from Zach Parise and David Clarkson. Kovalchuk has 12 points, including nine assists, in the last six games. Parise and Clarkson have scored six goals in the same time span.
Martin Brodeur did not play Thursday due to a right-ankle injury he suffered in Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Rangers. However, he said Friday that he's feeling better and will start against the Panthers.
"The next day after I hurt it, it was pretty painful," Brodeur said, according to The (Bergen) Record. "I had issues walking on it and as the day went on it felt better and better. (Thursday), it felt good. I went on the ice, it felt pretty good. I was able to work out last night during the game and no issue either and (had) a good practice (Friday). You never know what to expect, but it was fine."
Who's Hot: Kovalchuk added two assists in Thursday's shootout loss and is now one behind Patrik Elias for the team lead. Elias has 53 points in 53 games while Kovalchuk has 52 points in 49 games. Elias, though, is keeping pace thanks to his seven-game point-scoring streak. It's the third time this season he has registered a point in seven straight games. Parise is also riding a season-long seven-game point-scoring streak.
Injury Report: Travis Zajac (Achilles), Adam Larsson (bruised back) and Henrik Tallinder (blood clot) are still out for the Devils. … The Panthers are expected to be without Ed Jovanovski (hand), Scottie Upshall (sports hernia surgery), Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Jack Skille (shoulder) and Marco Sturm (knee).
Stat Pack: Kris Versteeg has four goals and an assist in the three games against New Jersey this season. Kovalchuk has three goals and a pair of assists in the three games against the Panthers.
Puck Drop: "These points are crucial not just for us, but for them as well," Brodeur said of the Devils and Panthers. "That's why it will a good challenge for us to bounce back. We played pretty well coming back from an emotional win against New York. So we have to step up and even play better."
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