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Panthers-Devils Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:48 AM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Devils Preview
Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

Looking to regain sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, the New Jersey Devils try to energize their power play when they host the struggling Florida Panthers on Friday night.

The Devils (26-16-3), tied with red-hot Pittsburgh for the top spot in the Atlantic, have won six consecutive home games against the Panthers (20-23-4), including a 3-2 victory Jan. 2. They haven't lost at home to Florida since a 2-1 defeat on Oct. 22, 2003, winning 11 of the next 14 meetings overall and two of three this season.

New Jersey's power play has spurred its home winning streak against Florida, with 10 of the team's 19 goals during the run coming in 29 man-advantage situations. The Devils, however, have struggled on the power play throughout this season and rank among the worst teams in the league with a 14.6 success rate.

New Jersey failed to convert on five opportunities with the man advantage Wednesday and lost 3-1 to the New York Islanders, despite outshooting them 38-23.

"You need your power play to step up," Devils coach Brent Sutter told the team's official Web site. "They didn't produce and that's the bottom line. We had opportunities in 5-on-5 play and didn't score."

That was costly against Islanders star goalie Rick DiPietro, who allowed only Travis Zajac's goal in the third period on one of 16 shots for New Jersey in the third period.

Losses are magnified for the Devils, who despite going 8-3-0 in their last 11 are struggling to keep pace with Pittsburgh. The Penguins have gone 9-0-1 in their last 10 to pull even with New Jersey for first place. They host Tampa Bay on Friday.

Zajac, 22, has been hot lately, scoring four goals and assisting on two others in the last seven games. His surge comes after he recorded only one point in the previous 10 games.

New Jersey's Patrik Elias has 11 goals and eight assists in his last 13 home games against Florida.

Martin Brodeur, who stopped 20 of 22 shots against the Islanders, is 16-3-0 with three ties, a 1.85 goals-against average and four shutouts in 22 home games against the Panthers. He's posted a 1.33 GAA and two shutouts during the six-game home win streak in the series.

The Panthers, losers of eight of their last 10 games, are looking to avoid matching a season-high four-game losing streak from Nov. 7-13.

The slide, which reached three with a 5-3 defeat at Philadelphia on Wednesday, has left Panthers coach Jacques Martin one victory shy of becoming the 10th coach in NHL history to win 500 games.

Some of Florida's recent struggles may stem from piling up penalty minutes. The Panthers have spent 26 minutes in the penalty box in each of the last two games, and given up three power-play goals in 12 opportunities during that span.

Panthers captain Olli Jokinen has totaled 10 penalty minutes over the last two games after recording just 32 in the first 46.

Jokinen, Florida's leader with 22 goals and 44 points, has two goals and an assist in the last three games after going pointless in the previous three.

The center hasn't scored in his last eight road games, but has contributed six assists.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Jan 18 '08 FLA 2 at NJD 1 D. Booth
Jan 02 '08 FLA 2 at NJD 3 B. Gionta
Oct 11 '07 NJD 0 at FLA 3 R. Olesz
Oct 06 '07 NJD 4 at FLA 1 J. Madden