PANTHERS (20-12-8) at DEVILS (21-16-2)
TV: FS-F, MSG PLUS
Florida 4-3-3; New Jersey 6-3-1
This is the third of four meetings between the clubs this season, and the first at Prudential Center. The Panthers have gained three out of a possible four points in the season-series with a 4-3 win on Nov. 21 and a 3-2 shootout loss on Dec. 13.
Big Story: Patrik Elias
will be playing in his 1,000th career NHL game, all with the Devils. Only Ken Daneyko (1,283) and Martin Brodeur
(1,156) have played in more games as Devils than Elias. However, the Devils are trying to erase the sting of Wednesday's 6-1 home loss to Boston while the Panthers are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
They have points in three of their last four games, but the Panthers have won only two of their last seven games (2-3-2). They're also playing without goalie Jose Theodore
, who will be out for a while with a knee injury.
Florida grabbed an early 1-0 lead at the Garden on Thursday, but the Rangers tied the game late in the first and took a 2-1 lead 4:24 into the third. However, Michael Santorelli
scored 36 seconds later and the Panthers were at least able to pick up a point in overtime.
Florida still leads the Southeast Division by four points over Washington, but the Capitals have won four in a row and have two games in hand.
Elias will become the second Devil to hit the 1,000 game milestone this season on Friday. Dainius Zubrus
also hit the mark Nov. 16 in Buffalo. The difference is Elias is the Devils' all-time regular-season leader in just about every single offensive category.
Elias, though, told Tom Gulitti of The (Bergen) Record that playing in all 1,000 games as a Devil is as special as any team record he holds.
"He's been certainly what you would call a pure Devil," Devils President and GM Lou Lamoriello said in The Record. "We drafted him and he spends two years in the minors and grows and has become a very special player and, in my mind, not only with the Devils, but one of the best all-situation players to play the game."
Elias leads the Devils this season with 34 points in 39 games.
Devils right wing David Clarkson
has scored a goal in three straight games and in four of the last five. He has the team-lead with 15 this season. … Panthers forward Mikael Samuelsson
has 5 assists in the last four games.
The Devils still don't know if Travis Zajac
(left Achilles tendon soreness) or Anton Volchenkov
(right leg strain) will be available. Zajac missed Wednesday's game against Boston and Volchenkov hasn't played in the last two games. Defenseman Bryce Salvador
sat out Thursday's practice, but he is expected to play. For the Panthers, Theodore (knee), who is expected to be out for a few weeks, missed his first game Thursday.
Elias is the Devils all-time regular-season leader in goals (348), assists (502), points (850), power-play goals (96), power-play points (272), game-winning goals (77), overtime goals (15) and hat tricks (8).
"The one thing I've been amazed at is nightly he's a 35-year-old and he looks like he's 25 and is playing like that," DeBoer said of Elias.
"I think he's more efficient than when he was younger in his management of his energy because he's smarter. He's like another coach out there. I think it makes it easier for guys like that to play longer."