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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Sunday, February 27th (All times eastern)

New Jersey Devils (26-31-4) at Florida Panthers (26-28-7), 5 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Even with their excellent run as of late, the Devils can't afford to give away too many points if they are to continue their run at a playoff spot.

New Jersey hopes to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since early January this evening against the Florida Panthers, who have been one of the few teams to best the Devils over the past two months.

Since a four-game losing streak from Jan. 1-8, the Devils have put together an incredible 16-2-2 run. However, their first loss in nine games on Friday, a 2-1 setback to the Lightning, proved costly as the Devils fell 11 points behind the Hurricanes for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mark Fayne scored and Johan Hedberg made 28 saves for the Devils, who suffered their first regulation loss since Jan. 26 and had a five-game road winning streak snapped. Ilya Kovalchuk had an assist to stretch his point streak to 12 straight games (7 goals, 14 points).

Hedberg was making his eighth straight start for New Jersey, which ends a four-game road trip tonight, and has allowed just three goals over his last four games. Martin Brodeur has dressed as the backup in four straight games since returning from a knee injury and hasn't started since Feb. 6.

The Devils will try to get two points in tonight's matchup, but both of their post-regulation losses during their 20-game run have come to the Panthers, including a 4-3 overtime loss in the last meeting at New Jersey on Feb. 4.

New Jersey does own a victory over Florida in that span as well, at home on Jan. 23, but has lost four of the past six meetings both overall and at BankAtlantic Center.

The Devils won't have to contend with former Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe after the Panthers traded the veteran to the Rangers on Saturday for forward Tim Kennedy and a 2011 third-round draft pick.

The 35-year-old McCabe had served as Florida's captain for the past two seasons and had 28 goals and 76 assists in 199 games with the club.

"Bryan McCabe was a peerless leader and terrific captain for our team and is a terrific person. This is the tough part of this business, but on behalf of the entire Panthers organization we wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future," said Florida general manager Dale Tallon.

The Panthers return home without their captain following a 2-2-0 road trip that was capped with Friday's 2-1 shootout win over the Thrashers. Steve Bernier had the game-winner in the sixth round and Tomas Vokoun made 45 saves.

Marty Reasoner scored in regulation for Florida, which is three points up on New Jersey in the standings and won for just the third time in nine games overall.

"It was a nice win. We had a lot of good efforts from people," said Florida head coach Peter DeBoer.

The Panthers were able to secure the win despite losing both Chris Higgins (hand) and Rostislav Olesz (knee) to injury.

Playing nine of its next 11 at home might not be an advantage for Florida, which has dropped seven of its last eight in Sunrise and is 12-11-6 as the host this season.

02/27 10:38:08 ET

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