The Devils face the slumping yet dangerous Florida Panthers for the second time this season.
The Devils should be well-rested — something they needed after a tough four-game week last week. Week 5 was the Devils’ most difficult of the season so far, but they did well.
They enter Thursday’s game on a two-game losing streak, but the Devils did earn points in three of four matchups against some of the best and toughest teams in the league.
The Panthers were winless last week but bounced back with a resounding win against the Islanders. They will be without their best forward, Alexsander Barkov, who is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered in that game.
Even with Barkov out, the Devils can’t afford to take the Panthers lightly.
There’s a reason this Florida team is the best in the league. They win games because they’re good at everything. Special teams, goaltending, even-strength, depth. You name it, they’ve got it.
Devils prospect Fabian Zetterlund was called up and could make his NHL debut in this game. He’ll definitely be a player to watch.
Keys to the game:
Keep doing what you’re doing, second line
The Andreas Johnsson-Dawson Mercer-Jesper Bratt line has been magical for the Devils and stood out more than ever before last week. It was the Devils’ best line as well one of the best lines in hockey.
Mercer, Bratt, and Johnsson were, respectively, the Devils’ best players last week. If they want to win on Thursday, the Devils will need this kind to maintain their excellent play and stand out against the league’s top team.
Dougie leads the blueline
Though some played well in certain games, no Devils defenseman really stood out in Week 5 as a whole. New Jersey’s superstar and prized offseason acquisition, Dougie Hamilton, must be at the top of his game in every way against Florida.
The Devils beat the Panthers without him last week, but Hamilton obviously gives the Devils a much better chance. He’s going to be crucial offensively, in his own zone, and on special teams.
Brick wall Blackwood
After a delayed start to the season, MacKenzie Blackwood hasn’t played much yet, but looks pretty good in net. He started the Devils’ last game against the Panthers and looked strong. The Devils will need him to be just as good, if not better, on Thursday.
The Panthers have one of the absolute best offenses and power plays in the league, so Blackwood can’t afford to not be sharp.
As we mentioned prior to the Devils’ first game against Florida, discipline is key. The Devils must be on their best behavior, or else one of the best power plays in the league is going to give them a hard time. The Devils must stay out of the box.
Panthers players to watch:
LW Jonathan Huberdeau
This season: 16 GP, 5 G (1 PP), 15 PTS
LW Anthony Duclair
This season: 16 GP, 8 G (1 PP), 14 PTS
Devils players to watch:
C Pavel Zacha
This season: 14 GP, 7 G (2 PP), 11 PTS
Career vs. FLA: 11 GP, 4 G, 9 PTS
LW Andreas Johnsson
This season: 14 GP, 6 G (1 PP), 11 PTS
C Dawson Mercer
This season: 14 GP, 5 G, 11 PTS
W Jesper Bratt
This season: 14 GP, 4 G, 11 PTS
C Nico Hischier
Career vs. FLA: 8 GP, 2 G, 7 PTS
LW Tomáš Tatar
Career vs. FLA: 28 GP, 11 G (4 PP), 22 PTS