PANTHERS (17-21-6) at DEVILS (18-18-9)
TV: FS-F, MSG PLUS
Last 10: Florida 5-4-1; New Jersey 4-3-3
Season series: This is the first of three games between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers. The Devils won two of three in 2012-13, including a 6-2 decision at Prudential Center in the final game of the series.
Big story: The Devils finish off a homestand looking to inch closer to a Stanley Cup Playoff berth. They ended a three-game losing streak on Thursday with a 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars at Prudential Center. Michael Ryder scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the second period to give the home team all the offense it needed as goalie Cory Schneider earned his third shutout of the season on 26 saves.
Schneider will start again Saturday. The Devils have scored one goal or less in 10 of Schneider's 20 starts this season (2-7-1). The win was Schneider's first at Prudential Center since a 1-0 shutout against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 30.
"I don't think it was the case where I was the reason we won the game," Schneider told The (Bergen) Record. "It was a good team effort. Winning is always better no matter how it happens, 5-4, 1-0. It's just a better feeling in the room."
Panthers: The Panthers won their third in five games on Thursday with a 2-1 shootout decision against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Brad Boyes scored in regulation to square the contest and then got the winner in the shootout for the Panthers. Boyes scored his 37th career shootout goal, the most since the NHL adopted the tiebreaker in 2005, in the third round. The Panthers had two goals disallowed in the third period and rang four off the post. Goalie Tim Thomas finished with 23 saves and stopped Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott in the tiebreaker.
"That was its own unique one which makes hockey, hockey," Thomas said. "For a 1-1 game, there was a lot of drama, but it was good to come out with two."
Panthers coach Peter Horachek listed forward Shawn Matthias as a healthy scratch on Thursday. Matthias has four goals and five assists in 43 games. He's been averaging 12:24 of ice time on the fourth line, down from 15:11 last season.
"He needs to stay focused and play with more detail. He seems to get distracted very easily; detail in his game isn't where it needs to be," Horachek told the Sun Sentinel.
Devils: Travis Zajac and his wife, Nicole, welcomed their second child on Wednesday; a daughter Veronika. While he didn't practice on Wednesday in order to be with his wife, he did join the team for Thursday's 1-0 victory against the Stars. Zajac played a team-high 24:11, generated four shots and earned the primary assist on Ryder's game-winner in the second. He also won 11 faceoffs in 20 chances, including two big wins in the final 30 seconds of the game.
"He's a new dad, another addition to the family and he looked energized," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I wish his wife could give birth every week."
Who's hot: Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov has one goal and seven points in the past seven games. … Ryder has points in a season-high three straight games and has six goals and nine points over the past 11 games.
Injury report: Florida defensemen Alex Petrovic (upper body) and Dylan Olsen (lower body), and forward Jesse Winchester (hand) are out. … Devils forwards Patrik Elias (upper body), Jacob Josefson (virus) and Damien Brunner (knee) are out. Peter Harrold (foot) has resumed skating but is doubtful.
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