With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.
You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.
No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.
They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.
Here’s some news from this year’s IIHF World Championship:
USA Avoids Relegation
T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues) scored a sudden-death shootout goal to help Team USA defeat Team Italy, 3-2, and avoid relegation yesterday.
Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers) opened the scoring at 11:45 of the first period. With Team USA on its second powerplay, Dubinsky ripped a slap shot that beat Italian goaltender Daniel Bellissimo high on the blocker side for his third goal of the tournament.
Team Italy fought back, tying the game at the 14-minute mark of the first. Giulio Scandella skated the past the Team USA defense, moving in alone on a breakaway. Scandella put home the puck, tying the game and ending Team USA’s shutout streak at 154 minutes.
The Italians seemed poised for the upset, taking the lead 6:49 into the third period. Stefano Margoli took a pass at center and made his way through Team USA’s defense. He took a wrist shot that beat Team USA goalie Scott Clemmensen (Florida Panthers).
Ryan Potulny (Edmonton Oilers) scored the equalizer, tying the game at 11:08 of the third period. With Team USA on a powerplay, Potulny crashed the net, putting a rebound past Bellissimo.
David Moss (Calgary Flames) almost gave the Americans a late victory with a breakaway chance. Moss tried a backhanded shot, but Bellissimo kicked out the right pad to block the shot to the corner.
By heading to overtime, Team USA clinched its spot in the IIHF’s upper division. The win helped relegate Italy to the federation’s second tier.
Team USA finished 13th overall in the tournament.
Russia vs. Canada – Part Two
The last time these two teams met, the Russians were on the wrong end of a drubbing.
Team Canada defeated the Russians, 7-3, in this year’s Winter Olympics en-route to winning the gold medal. Team Russia, sporting such NHL stars as Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey Devils) didn’t medal.
The rivalry continues to grow, and the quarterfinals match will be no different. Team Russia is undefeated in this year’s tournament, winning the first six games. They also have a 25 game IIHF World Championship winning streak, which started in the 2007 bronze medal game against – you guessed it – Canada.
Team Canada brought a young team to Germany, and its still trying to gel. They’ve lost their last two coming into the game against the Russians.
When asked about the matchup, Kovalchuk said he wished it would come later in the tournament.
“Russia-Canada, it is too bad we meet in the quarterfinals but it will be a big match for us,” said Kovalchuk, the captain of Team Russia. “It is always nice when we face each other in the final but it seems the last couple of big tournaments we have faced each other in the quarterfinals.”
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (46-27-7) face off against the New York Islanders (34-36-10). This is the final game of the regular season between both teams. The Devils currently lead the season series, 3-2-0.
The Last Islanders Game: The Islanders lost to Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-3, Thursday night. In the final game at the Igloo, Sidney Crosby collected four points to become the third youngest player to ever reach the 500 point mark. Martin Biron was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots in the first period. Dwayne Roloson allowed three goals on 25 shots in relief.
The Last Devils Game: The Florida Panthers defeated the Devils, 3-2, Thursday night. Patrik Elias opened the scoring 59 seconds into the second period. Florida scored the next three, including the game-winning goal from Nathan Horton in the third period. Ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen stopped 44 shots in the victory.
The Last Islanders – Devils Game: The Islanders defeated the Devils, 4-2, March 13th on Long Island. Jon Sim broke a 1-1 tie in the second period, and Sean Bergenheim added the dagger with a shorthanded goal in the third period. Devils goalie Yann Danis stopped 29 shots in the loss.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils had a solid effort against the Florida Panthers Thursday night, but the offense came out on the short end of the stick. Clemmensen had a big hand in that, stonewalling the Devils and thwarting their best efforts tie the game. With the Islanders inability to even look competitive against the Penguins, the Devils fell back into a tie for second seed in the conference and first in the Atlantic Division.
The Devils effort in the past three games hasn’t been terrible. As a matter of fact, I’d say they’re playing some great hockey. Thursday night was a letdown, but the team still played hard. They come into tonight’s game playing the Islanders, a team that always plays the Devils tough. The Devils can’t take this team lightly. They’re always a thorn in the Devils’ side, and they have some young guys licking their lips and ready to play the spoiler. To prevent a loss, the Devils just need to continue to play solid hockey. Pittsburgh provided a solid blueprint for defeating the Islanders. Drive to the net and put shots on their goalies. Biron (who I’m sure Philadelphia wants back now) and Roloson aren’t superstars by any stretch of the imagination. If the Devils can continue their aggressive style, they should be able to win this game.
Update (5:17 p.m.): None of the regular players will be getting any rest tonight. Coach Jacques Lemaire wanted to rest defenseman Colin White, but relented when White begged him to play. If the Devils win tonight and the Penguins lose, they can clinch their ninth Atlantic Division. If the Devils win and both the Penguins and Buffalo lose, the Devils win the division and clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference. So, let’s go Thrashers and Senators!
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSGPlus or WFAN.
Use this as tonight’s open game thread. Please keep comments focused on the game or any other relevant NHL action going on tonight. Please keep it clean and respectful.
Last season, Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen won 25 games with the New Jersey Devils while filling in for a then-injured Martin Brodeur.
Clemmensen, facing his former team, stopped 42 shots to lead the Panthers over the Devils, 3-2, at the BankAtlantic Center.
Clemmensen, who signed a three-year contract with Florida in July, faced his former team for the second time this season. He won his first start, stopping 26 shots in a 4-2 win on December 26.
Patrik Elias opened the scoring 59 seconds into the second period. Clemmensen stopped the initial shot, and a rebound chance went off the crossbar. Elias tipped the loose puck past Clemmensen for his 17th goal of the season.
Michael Frolik tied the game at 6:03 of the period. Frolik received a cross-ice pass from Nathan Horton and put a shot on net. The puck deflected off the stick of Rob Niedermayer and beat Brodeur for the tying goal.
Frolik’s goal ended the Devils’ shutout streak of 151 minutes and 29 seconds, which is the third longest in franchise history.
Radek Dvorak put the Panthers ahead, 2-1, 1:14 into the third period. Rostislav Olesz fed Dvorak with a backhanded pass from below the goal line. Dvorak put the shot past Brodeur’s pads for his 14th goal of the season.
Horton stretched the Panthers lead to 3-1 at 12:23 of the period. The center beat Brodeur with a shot from the left circle for his 19th goal of the lead.
Brodeur finished with 15 saves in the loss.
Mike Mottau brought the Devils to within one at 14:46 of the period. But it would be too litte, too late, as the Devils couldn’t get the tying goal.
With the win, the Devils fell back into a tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Atlantic Division lead. Both teams have identical 46-27-7 records, and each team has 99 points. The Devils still hold first place because of their season sweep of the Penguins.
David Clarkson and Nick Tarnasky dropped the gloves at 2:07 in the third period. Clarkson landed more punches, but both players had trouble keeping their balance…Devils’ defenseman Colin White caught an edge and went hard into the boards at 17:52 of the second period. White got up slowly and skated off the ice, but was fine after the game…Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire, who wants to try and rest some of his regular players, made defenseman Andy Greene a healthy scratch tonight.
The Matchup: The Florida Panthers (31-36-12) face off against the New Jersey Devils (46-26-7). This is the final game of the series for both teams. The Devils lead the season series, 2-1-0.
The Last Panthers Game: The Panthers lost to Ottawa Senators, 5-2, Tuesday night. Mike Fisher scored twice to lead the Senators to victory. Tomas Vokoun stopped 23 shots in the loss. It marked the seventh game in a row that the Panthers failed to score two or more goals.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils blanked the Atlanta Thrashers, 3-0, Tuesday night. Dean McAmmond, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac all tallied goals for New Jersey. Martin Brodeur made 19 saves for his second consecutive shutout and 600th win of his career.
The Last Panthers – Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Panthers, 2-0, on January 20th. Zajac broke a scoreless tie with his goal at 18:30 of the second period, and McAmmond added an empty-netter in the final second of regulation. Brodeur stopped 20 shots for the victory.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils are coming into tonight’s matchup having played two solid, 60-minute games. The team seems to be rounding into form, and the player leading the charge is Brodeur. The Devils’ goalie has been sharp as of late, bring a 125:26 shutout streak into tonight’s game. As Brodeur’s play has rose, so has the play of the team around him. The Devils seem to be doing the little things right, like forechecking aggressively and playing solid defensive hockey. And while Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire believes the team can play better, they’ve been playing really great hockey.
Tonight the Devils take on a team sitting on the other end of the spectrum. The Panthers haven’t looked good all year, and they sit near the bottom of the conference. Ex-Devil Scott Clemmensen, who had a great season for the Devils last year, will probably get the nod tonight in net. But with their recent scoring woes, the goalie may not matter in Florida.
With a win tonight and a regulation loss by the Penguins, the Devils will wrap up the Atlantic Division crown and probably the second seed in the conference. Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN.