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Panthers Still Like Where They're At In Series Against Devils

Friday, 04.20.2012 / 5:44 PM ET / News
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers Still Like Where They\'re At In Series Against Devils

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- A day after getting shut out in Game 4, the Florida Panthers still like where they stand in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against New Jersey.

New Jersey's 4-0 victory at the Prudential Center evened the series at two games apiece heading into Game 5 Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center.

Before they were shut out when Martin Brodeur stopped 26 shots, the Panthers ensured a split of the two games in New Jersey with their 4-3 come-from-behind victory on Tuesday.


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"After the first game in Jersey, it was a big win," said goalie Jose Theodore, who was one of seven players on the ice for an optional practice Friday. "Obviously you want to get greedy and get the next one, but it didn't happen. They played a solid game. Marty played well. Now you go back home. We still have home-ice advantage and it's a 2-2 series. If you would have told me before the series that it would have been 2-2 coming back home, I would take that any day."

Along with Theodore, the other Panthers to skate Friday were rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, veteran John Madden, injured forward Matt Bradley and the three forwards who were healthy scratches Thursday -- Krystofer Barch, Mike Santorelli and Wojtek Wolski.

As has been his custom, coach Kevin Dineen declined to reveal his starting goalie for Game 5.

Scott Clemmensen made his first career playoff start Thursday after shutting out the Devils over the last 53:44 on Tuesday. Clemmensen didn't fare as well, giving up four goals on 27 shots.

"For one thing, I don't think goaltending was the issue in the game," Dineen said. "Our goaltending was really strong. I thought Clem made some big saves early, which we really needed to stabilize ourselves.

"Back to the same old decision-making that I repeat over and over, that no matter what decision I make, I think it'll be a good one. But I'll have to give it a day and think on it and get the boys ready for tomorrow."

The Panthers are hoping to have defenseman Jason Garrison back in the lineup for Game 5 after he was scratched Thursday because of a lower-body injury.

Dineen said Friday he was "cautiously optimistic" Garrison would be able to play, but ruled out fellow defenseman Keaton Ellerby. Playing in his first game since March 15, Ellerby sustained a lower-body injury in the second period when he was checked into the Devils bench where the open door meets the stanchion.

Down to five defensemen for more than half the game, the Panthers relied heavily on Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov, who logged 24:31 of ice time.

"That's an unfortunate situation that you get a new guy back in a lineup -- Keats had been out -- and you're looking for that energy and when you lose him early, it put a lot of pressure on our other five guys," Dineen said. "They logged a lot of ice time. But that's been Kuli, when he's been at his best this year he gobbles up minutes and he has a high level of composure when he's under pressure. I thought he did a fine job."

While the Panthers clearly were disappointed they missed a chance to grab a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, they also weren't expecting the series to be easy.

"All the series are tough," center Stephen Weiss said. "There's no easy matchups in the regular season or especially in the playoffs. You've got to fight every shift, every game. It's going to be close, but we've got a home game tomorrow. We're excited to come out and play in front of our fans and should have a lot of energy."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent




1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Jagr 49 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 52 10 27 10 37
A. Barkov 42 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 52 10 25 12 35
V. Trocheck 52 17 16 4 33
R. Smith 52 16 15 11 31
B. Pirri 48 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 48 10 12 21 22
B. Campbell 52 4 16 17 20
N. Bjugstad 37 9 8 -3 17
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

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