First-place Panthers open homestand against Devils

Published December 13, 2011

| Sports Network

The top team in the Southeast Division, the Florida game homestand tonight versus the New Jersey Devils from BankAtlantic Center.

Florida hasn't played up to its top billing as of late, having dropped two straight since a three-game winning streak and five of its last nine games. It went 1-1-1 on a three-game road trip and concluded the trek with Sunday's lopsided 6-1 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers.

Erik Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal for the Panthers in the first period and Scott Clemmensen made 11 saves in the third. Jose Theodore started for Florida, but was yanked after giving up six goals on 22 shots in the first two periods.

"Any time you get a tail-kicking like that you always hear things from coaches like 'the will to compete.' Obviously, their 'want' was higher than ours," said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. "That's an old-fashioned tail-kicking for sure."

The Panthers are 6-2-4 as the host this season and will also welcome the Flames, Hurricanes and Coyotes to town. Florida went 3-0-1 on its most recent four-game homestand (Nov. 19-Nov. 25) and is 4-0-1 in its last five contests in Sunrise. Center Mark Cullen is questionable for Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury.

New Jersey has won three of four games since a four-game slide and recorded a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Monday in the opener of a brief two-game road trip.

Zach Parise and rookie Adam Henrique both posted a goal and two assists, while Ilya Kovalchuk, Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus also scored for New Jersey, which improved to 9-8-0 away from home this season.

Johan Hedberg earned his ninth win of the season with a 32-save performance.

"A big two points tonight," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said on the club's website. "It was important; we came out and got a win. We wanted to start the road trip right and we did that."

Devils forward Cam Janssen missed his fourth straight game due to a bruised chest and is expected to return soon. He was just activated from injured reserve. In other team news, the Devils acquired defenseman Kurtis Foster and goaltender Timo Pielmeier from Anaheim in exchange for blueliner Mark Fraser, center Rod Pelley and the club's seventh-round choice in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Tuesday's game between New Jersey and Florida is the second of four matchups this season. The Panthers took the first encounter by a 4-3 score at home and has won four of the past six meetings between the two clubs. The Devils lead the all-time series with Florida by a 43-22-9 difference, including a 20-13-5 mark in the previous 38 road games.

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