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Devils look to end Panthers' modest win streak

by Mike G. Morreale

PANTHERS (9-16-6) at DEVILS (14-11-6)


Last 10: Florida 3-6-1; New Jersey 4-5-1

Season series: This is the first meeting between the clubs since their dramatic seven-game showdown in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last spring. This is the first of three regular-season matches in 2012-13. The teams will square off in Florida on March 30 and again at Prudential Center on April 20.

Big story: Goalie Martin Brodeur made his first start for the New Jersey Devils in almost a month on Thursday in dramatic fashion when he was credited with a goal and turned aside 17 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Brodeur, who had missed 11 games due to back issues caused by a pinched nerve, notched the third goal of his illustrious career. The victory moved the Devils into seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 14 wins and 34 points.

Team Scope:

Panthers: The game against New Jersey will be the third of a season high five-game road trip for the Panthers, who are 2-0-0 on the northern East Coast swing. Florida won its second straight on Thursday behind a 44-save performance by goalie Jacob Markstrom en route to a 3-1 decision over the New York Rangers. It marked only the second time this season the Panthers, still last in the overall NHL standings, have celebrated two straight triumphs. The team will travel to the New York Islanders on Sunday and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Brian Campbell, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky scored against the Rangers.

Devils: New Jersey improved to 11-1-2 when scoring first this season in its triumph over the Hurricanes on Thursday. Brodeur got his goal 3:54 into the first during a delayed penalty on New Jersey when Carolina's Jordan Staal attempted a diagonal pass to Tim Gleason that careened off the boards, down the ice and into an open net. Brodeur stopped all 11 shots in his direction in the first. Adam Henrique, Peter Harrold and Andrei Loktionov also scored for the Devils.

Who's hot: Ilya Kovalchuk has three goals and 10 points in the past 11 games for New Jersey. Harrold has two goals and an assist during a three-game points streak. … Florida's Sean Matthias has five goals and seven points in the past nine games.

Injury report: For the Devils, Alexei Ponikarosvky is questionable. Dainius Zubrus (wrist) and Henrik Tallinder (lower body) are out. … Florida forward George Parros (upper body) is day-to-day, while goalie Jose Theodore (groin), defensemen Michael Caruso (wrist), Mike Weaver (lower body) and Dmitry Kulikov (wrist) and forwards Stephen Weiss (wrist) and Kris Versteeg (knee) are on injured reserve.

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