Devils-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 13, 2011
The Florida Panthers hope returning home will be all they need to bounce back from a disappointing road trip. Looking to avoid matching a season high with their third straight defeat, the Southeast Division-leading Panthers aim to regroup when they open a four-game homestand Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. After beginning the three-game trip with a 2-0 win over Boston on Thursday, Florida (16-9-5) fell 2-1 in overtime at Buffalo before giving up its most goals of the season Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers. "It was just one of those games,'' said rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who scored his first career goal versus New York. "Glad I was able to score but really, all that matters is how we played overall, and how we respond to it. "What happened, happened, it's on us now to make something good out of it. This is about us, as a team, and how we react to it.'' The Panthers, owners of a six-point lead over Washington in the Southeast, suffered three straight shutout losses Oct. 31-Nov. 6. Florida will try to avoid another three-game skid by returning home, where it's 4-0-1 since losing four in a row. The Panthers need to get their offense back in gear. They've totaled four goals in the last three games, on the heels of consecutive victories over San Jose and Washington in which they scored five each. Florida has totaled nine goals while winning two of its last three games against New Jersey (15-13-1), including 4-3 at home Nov. 21. Winger Kris Versteeg had two goals with an assist in that contest, and has one goal and two assists in his last three games overall. It's uncertain if Jose Theodore will get the start in goal for the Panthers after he was pulled for allowing all six goals on 22 shots Sunday. He did make 22 saves last month for his second straight win versus New Jersey, but backup and ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen is 3-0-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average in limited action this season. Clemmensen, who spent five of his first six NHL seasons in New Jersey backing up future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, is 3-0-0 with a 2.36 GAA against his former team. Brodeur is expected to be in net Tuesday after he watched New Jersey beat Tampa Bay 5-4 on Monday night, its third win in four games following a four-game skid. Brodeur, who has allowed two goals in each of his last three outings, has stopped all but two of the 48 shots he's faced while winning his last two home starts versus Florida. Adam Henrique and Zach Parise each had a goal with two assists Monday for the Devils, who almost blew a late three-goal lead against the Lightning. "(It was) an important game,'' coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're trying to get some traction and move up (in the standings). It was a key two points.'' In his first full NHL season, Henrique has three goals with nine assists in his last nine games. However, he was held without a point in New Jersey's loss at Florida last month. Parise has three goals and eight assists during his last eight contests but also did not record a point against the Panthers.
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