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Panthers still like where they're at in series vs. Devils

By Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

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Panthers still like where they're at in series vs. Devils
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.

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."

Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season