Devils wrap up road trip versus Panthers

The New Jersey Devils will aim for a third straight win in game road trip, as they visit the first-place Florida Panthers for tonight's battle at BankAtlantic Center.

The Devils have a 3-1-0 record on their current swing and have won six of their last eight games overall.

New Jersey's only loss during its road trip came Tuesday in Boston, but the Devils rebounded with victories in Buffalo and Tampa. The Devils beat the Lightning by a 4-2 count on Saturday to improve their road record to 6-4-0 on the season.

Although New Jersey's next game is Wednesday against visiting Columbus, the Devils will play just two of their next seven tests on home ice.

Ryan Carter notched a goal and an assist to help lead the Devils past Tampa. Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson each had a second-period goal for the Devils, who also got 21 saves from Martin Brodeur.

"It's still early but I think we are doing a lot of good things," said Clarkson. "I think when you work hard and do the little things, you'll be rewarded."

Tonight's test will mark a return to Sunrise for Devils head coach Peter DeBoer, who was fired by Florida last spring after three seasons behind the Panthers bench. The Devils then gave DeBoer his second NHL head coaching job in July.

"For a lot of reasons, I'd like to win that one," said DeBoer about tonight's game. "It will be interesting. I haven't been back to a place I've been fired before, so it will be a first-time experience for me. Listen, I had three great years there."

Florida, meanwhile, has surprised many folks with a solid 10-6-3 start to the season and the Panthers are currently two points ahead of Washington for first place in the Southeast Division.

Although its still early in the season, Florida hopes its successful start will eventually lead to the club securing an elusive playoff berth. The Panthers haven't made the playoffs since 2000, giving the franchise the dubious distinction of having the longest postseason drought in league history.

Florida won for the fourth time in six games Saturday, as the Panthers began a four-game homestand with a 3-2 regulation victory over Pittsburgh. Stephen Weiss scored with 3:30 to play to lift the Panthers to the win.

Weiss finished the game with a goal and two assists while Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Jose Theodore stopped 39 shots to help Florida improve to 3-2-3 as the host this year.

"He's the guy that runs the engine for us right now," said Florida head coach Kevin Dineen about Weiss. "He had three points for us and is putting up good minutes against big, strong guys. He's our man right now."

Weiss has two goals and four assists over his last three games. He has 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 28 career games against the Devils.

Theodore could get the start in net again for Florida, as fellow netminder Scott Clemmensen was unable to suit up Saturday. Dineen said Clemmensen, who had surgery on his right knee in September, was sore after shutting out Dallas on Tuesday in his first game of the season.

Clemmensen was able to serve as Theodore's backup in Thursday's loss to St. Louis, but Jacob Markstrom was recalled to fill that role on Saturday.

Panthers center Marcel Goc missed his second straight game Saturday with an upper body injury and he is questionable for tonight.

Florida and the Devils split four meetings last season and the Panthers have taken three of the last five encounters in this series. The clubs each have three wins over the previous six matchups at BankAtlantic Center.