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Devils try to boost fading playoff hopes against Panthers
(Sports Network) - Having finally halted a 10-game losing streak that more than likely ended New Jersey's chances at a playoff spot, the Devils take aim at a second straight victory on Saturday afternoon in a home meeting with the Florida Panthers.
Sitting seventh overall in the Eastern Conference on March 24, the Devils followed with a 0-6-4 rut and now sit 11th in the conference following Thursday's 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. New Jersey is eight points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth spot in the conference with five games to play. Two of those games are against the Rangers, including Sunday's showdown in New York. A regulation loss on Saturday would end New Jersey's playoff chances.
The Devils were coming off consecutive 2-0 defeats prior to Thursday's win and did not score in those games despite a combined 64-23 shot advantage. Things finally went their way versus the Flyers, getting goals from Ryan Carter, Matt D'Agostini and Adam Henrique while holding a 31-23 shot advantage.
Martin Brodeur made sure things held up by stopping all 23 shots fired his way to notch his 121st career shutout and second of the season. He also finally logged the 667th victory of his career.
"It seems like it's been a long time so I'm glad for the guys," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "That's the kind of effort we've been putting out for a while now, but didn't get rewarded. We were sitting at 1-0 and the thought begin to creep into your mind, here we go again. We found a way in the third and the guys deserved the win."
New Jersey won its first game since a 2-1 home decision over the Florida Panthers on March 23. Winger Ilya Kovalchuk suffered a shoulder injury in that victory and has not played since. However, Kovalchuk, who has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 32 games, will return today after missing 11 games
Captain Bryce Salvador also missed the Flyers game due to a bruised right wrist, while fellow blueliner Anton Volchenkov served the third of a four- game suspension for an illegal hit versus Boston on April 10.
The Devils will play the Panthers for the third and final time this season and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Florida on March 30. The Panthers have lost six of their last nine in New Jersey.
The Panthers are sitting last in the overall NHL standings with 32 points and have been outscored 21-6 over a current four-game slide. They were routed 6-1 by the Rangers on Thursday.
Jonathan Huberdeau had Florida's lone goal, the rookie's 14th of the season and 28th point. Scott Clemmensen yielded all six goals and made 24 saves.
"The game finished ugly," stated Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. "That's the nature of it. [Teams fighting for the playoffs] are what we're going to see from here on out. They are Cookie Monsters out there, hungry at the end of the game."
With a banged up blue line that includes injuries to Filip Kuba, Erik Gudbranson and Tyson Strachan, Alex Petrovic made his NHL debut for the Panthers in the loss.
Florida has dropped the first two of a four-game swing that is scheduled to end on Sunday in Boston.
04/20 11:38:55 ET