NEWARK, NJ - The Devils are looking to continue their successful run of games since the NHL All-Star Break where they've come away with points in each of the six contests.
Their best two games of this stretch arguably came in their last two outings with Mackenzie Blackwood earning a shutout in both of them but it won't be Blackwood between the pipes tonight.
"We want to do a good job managing our goalies. We've got seven games in the next 12 days. Yes, Blackwood played very well but we found when we played him a lot his game dipped a little bit. For us, it's important to have two goalies ready to go," said Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine.
The bench boss said that Blackwood understands the reality of the situation with the heavy schedule coming up.
"He understands. It's not something we just threw at him this morning. It's been in the works for awhile now. He knows he played a lot a couple months ago and it wasn't ideal. His shutout streak is still going to be on for next game."
Pavel Zacha has been outstanding as of late with five points in this six-game stretch and a dangerous palyer to have on the ice for the penalty kill.
"You first have to earn that trust which he has. Lately he's been playing good and consistent hockey. There's still areas of his game he has to get better but he's showing signs of what we want him to be," noted Nasreddine. "Pav is an important player for us. He plays in all situations."
Zacha said he's feelling like his game is becoming more consistent and that's been his key to success.
"That's something every player wants to be is more consistent. Playing power play and penalty kill is important, too. Playing a lot of minutes," he said. "The best players in the League don't have bad games. If it's something you can do, it'll help your game."
He added that his line with Miles Wood and Wayne Simmonds brings a different dimension to the team.
"We're strong guys, we're pretty big. Wood is a fast skater and is pretty big. Simmonds is big, too. We try to play as much as we can in the offensive zone and don't have it in our zone."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (20-24-10) vs PANTHERS (29-20-6)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the two teams this season.
This season, the Panthers won the only meeting so far this season by a score of 6-4 back on October 14 at Prudential Center.
Pavel Zacha had three points in that game to lead the way for the Devils. Six different Panthers had two points while Brett Connolly had two goals for the Panthers.
Last season, the Devils defeated the Panthers twice and dropped one decision. Each team won a game in overtime.
Blake Coleman had three points (two goals, one assist) in three games to lead the Devils in scoring against Florida. Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and six points in three games against New Jersey.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have picked up points in each of their last six games and haven't lost in regulation since January 18. Going back further, the last time the Devils lost in regulation at home was on January 4.
Kevin Rooney has four points in those six games (two goals, two assists) including a shorthanded goal and shorthanded assist. Pavel Zacha has five points (three goals) while Damon Severson and Kyle Palmieri lead the way with six points. Severson has picked up a point in each of the six games.
Panthers team scope:
The Panthers won six straight games heading into the NHL All-Star Break but coming out of it, they've struggled to find their game again. In the six games since, they only have one win (1-4-1). They're coming off a 4-1 loss last night in Philadelphia.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in scoring with 68 points in 55 games. With 21 goals, Mike Hoffman is the team's leading goal scorer.
With goaltender Chris Driedger out due to injury, Sam Montembault could get the start in goal tonight. He has a 3.40 goals-against average and .889 save percentage with a 4-2-1 record in nine appearances.
By the Numbers:
The Devils are 7-8-3 against Atlantic Division opponents this season and 3-3-3 on home ice. Florida is 8-8-3 against the Metropolitan.
Devils penalty kill since November has moved up from 30th in the NHL to 16th. Since December 1st, the Devils lead the entire NHL in "net PK" which is their total power play goals allowed minus shorthanded goals for divided by penalty kills. That number is at 91.6% thanks to their league-leading eight shorthanded goals. Their actual PK is also quite good at 83.8%, ranking eighth.
Devils -Nico Hischier (lower body) is day-to-day; Sami Vatanen (lower body) is day-to-day
Panthers - Chris Driedger (lower body) is on IR; Brian Boyle (upper body) is day-to-day