The New Jersey Devils will try to avoid another first-round playoff exit as they host the third-seeded Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals tonight at Prudential Center.
The sixth-seeded Devils haven't made it past the opening round of the postseason since 2007, when they defeated Tampa Bay in the conference quarterfinals before falling to Ottawa in the next round. New Jersey trails this current best-of-seven series three games to two after losing 3-0 in Saturday's Game 5 at Florida and the Devils need to win tonight to force a decisive Game 7.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded Panthers will be attempting to win their first playoff series since 1996 when they take the ice tonight Florida is participating in its first postseason since 2000 and hasn't won a playoff series since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1996 Eastern Conference finals.
Florida head coach Kevin Dineen went back to goaltender Jose Theodore in Game 5 and it proved to be a wise choice, as he made 30 saves for his second career playoff shutout to lead the Panthers to the 3-0 decision. However, Theodore missed practice on Tuesday morning and is not expected to be available tonight, leaving Scott Clemmensen to start Game 6.
Theodore started the first three games of this series before being pulled six- plus minutes into Game 3. He was then relegated to backup as Clemmensen made his first career postseason start in Game 4, a 4-0 win by the Devils.
The Panthers have recalled Jakob Markstrom from San Antonio of the AHL to serve as the backup to Clemmensen.
Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky scored on Saturday for Florida.
The Panthers were just 17-17-7 as the road team during the regular season and Florida earned a split of Games 3 and 4 in New Jersey.
Martin Brodeur stopped 30-of-32 shots for the Devils in Saturday's loss.
"It's not a fun situation to be in but I think we have to embrace it," said Brodeur. "We want to have the attitude of survival in our home and force it back here. We just have to play as hard as we can because these guys are going to try and take it away from us."
Although they posted a solid 24-13-4 record at Prudential Center this season, the Devils have lost their last four home games when facing elimination. New Jersey hasn't won an elimination game at home since Game 4 of the 2006 Eastern Conference semifinals against Carolina. However, that victory came at the Meadowlands and the Devils still lost that series in five games.
If the Devils can win tonight, the Panthers will host Game 7 on Thursday.
On the injury front, Florida defenseman Jason Garrison has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight's game.