Two teams moving in opposite directions meet on Monday, when the struggling Florida Panthers begin a quick two-game road trip against the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils. The Panthers have lost three of their last four games and are just two points ahead of last-place Buffalo in the Eastern Conference, while the Devils have earned points in four straight contests (3-0-1) after posting a 4-3 overtime win at Detroit on Saturday.
Florida appeared to be starting something with three wins in four games during the middle of the month but has scored a total of four goals in its last four contests after a 4-1 home setback against Chicago on Saturday. “We got to start being more consistent, night in and night out,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad told the Sun Sentinel. “We all have to, if somebody’s not doing it, we got to get on that guy or help pick them up.” New Jersey has yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation this season and has earned at least one point in seven of its last eight contests (5-1-2), with a bevy of players contributing in the scoring column. “It’s great, keep it going,” Devils center Brian Boyle, who has recorded a goal in each of his last two games, told reporters. “Good teams have four lines that can make plays.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Florida, MSG Plus (New Jersey)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (8-12-2): Fourth-leading scorer Evgenii Dadonov suffered a shoulder injury in Saturday’s loss and is questionable, while veteran Radim Vrbata (face) likely will miss his fourth straight game. Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau share the team lead in scoring with 22 points apiece while Aleksander Barkov is right behind them with 21. Jared McCann, who currently is centering the third line, tallied on Saturday for his first goal in four games since returning from injured reserve.
ABOUT THE DEVILS (14-5-4): Brian Gibbons, who spent the last two seasons in the minors, has scored a team-leading 11 goals after netting the game-winner on Saturday. “He’s got a knack for scoring some big goals for us,” center Travis Zajac told reporters. “He’s using his speed. He’s creating turnovers and chances off of that. Obviously, he’s been around a long time. For him to get a chance to be up here and contribute, it’s great to see.” Taylor Hall tops the team in scoring with 26 points, with five coming in his last two games.
1. The Devils edged the Panthers 2-1 on Nov. 11, snapping their five-game losing streak in the all-time series.
2. New Jersey D Will Butcher (18 points) and C Nico Hischier (17) - both rookies - are second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring.
3. Florida LW Henrik Haapala has yet to register a shot in his first two NHL games but notched an assist against Toronto on Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Devils 3, Panthers 2