NEWARK, N.J. -- The Florida Panthers begin a critical three-game road trip against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Saturday.
The Panthers are six points behind the New York Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild-card position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They trail the Boston Bruins, who hold the first wild-card spot, by seven points, but have three games in hand.
The Panthers will travel to Madison Square Garden to play against the New York Rangers on Monday and Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders on Tuesday before returning home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
"We were on a little bit of a losing streak there and wanted to end that and we did [with a 3-2 win against Columbus on Thursday]," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "Now it's all about keeping it on track and making sure we get things to start this road trip."
Ekblad, a possible Calder Trophy candidate as NHL rookie of the year, is three goals shy of tying Ed Jovanovksi (10 goals in 1995-96) for first all-time among Panthers rookie defensemen in goals.
"The big thing in his game is the way he carries himself and handles himself out there, but defensively he reads plays really well for an 18-year-old kid at this level," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "That's the biggest thing that stands out for me. He reads plays in the defensive zone, anticipates and he's got that knack for breaking up plays."
For the Devils, Adam Henrique, who was in pain after taking shot off his left hand from Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang in the third period on Friday, is expected in the lineup. An X-ray taken on Friday revealed no fracture.
Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said after the game on Friday that rookie Keith Kinkaid would start against Florida. It will mark his first appearance since a relief stint in a 5-1 loss in Anaheim after Cory Schneider couldn't continue after taking a shot off his goalie helmet in the first period. Kinkaid last started a game on Jan. 9, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders.
Here are the projected lineups:
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes
Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Brandon Pirri
Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Tomas Fleischmann
Scottie Upshall - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton
Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad
Alex Petrovic - Dmitry Kulikov
Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson
Scratched:?????????Jimmy Hayes, Tomas Kopecky
Adam Henrique - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr
Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Martin Havlat
Dainius Zubrus - Mike Cammalleri - Steve Bernier
Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Mark Fraser - Marek Zidlicky
Peter Harrold - Jon Merrill
Scratched: Eric Gelinas, Michael Ryder
Injured: Stephen Gionta (fractured hand), Damon Severson (fractured left ankle), Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (suspected concussion)
Status report: The Devils did not hold a morning skate but Lamoriello will hold a conference at 4:45 p.m. ET to confirm any lineup changes. … Gallant will likely replace forwards Jimmy Hayes and Tomas Kopecky in the lineup with Fleischmann and Upshall. Fleischmann will be making his first appearance in three games, and Upshall was a healthy scratch against the Blue Jackets.
Who's hot: Bjugstad has two goals and seven points in the past 10 games. … Bernier has scored four of his seven goals this season in the past five games.