Do not be surprised if the Florida Panthers packed plenty of Cafe Bustelo for their quick, two-game road trip.
If they did not, well, perhaps they can find some in Newark.
The Panthers are going to need a lot of strong coffee to get through this weekend.
Not only do the Panthers have early kickoffs in both Newark and Buffalo, Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils includes some additional travel.
Usually when an NHL team plays an early-afternoon game, they are staying within walking distance of the arena.
The Panthers stayed in lower Manhattan on Friday night and had early busses headed to New Jersey on Saturday for their 12:30 game against the Devils.
Sunday’s 1 p.m. start against the Sabres at least has a Tim Hortons on the walk to the arena.
”It is a tough little way to get in, especially early in the morning,” Andrew Brunette said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to be ready to play on time. I have said it a few times, but with these early games, the team ready to play the first little bit can decide it. We have to be ready.”
The Panthers can clinch a playoff spot this weekend as they face two teams long eliminated from postseason contention.
The Devils, who thumped the Panthers 7-3 on their last visit to The Rock in November, may not remember that feeling.
New Jersey has not only lost three of its past four games and six of eight, but Thursday, the Devils were rolled 8-1 by the Bruins.
Perhaps they will be an angry bunch come Saturday morning.
Regardless of the Devils’ mood, the Panthers know they need to keep winning if they want to continue leading the Atlantic what with everyone else chasing them within the division winning games as well.
“It’s a bizarre year,” Brunette said. “To see playoff races being done, in our division, almost a month ago. Even though the other divisions have heated up a little, you don’t see that often. And I don’t remember another time when it has happened. …
“I am always watching and I think you’re very aware of all these different teams. I catch Tampa a lot and they cause you nightmares certain nights, certainly sleepless nights.
“And the way Boston is playing and we played a very good Toronto team the other day. It’s crazy.”
Anton Lundell has continued to work toward a return to the lineup and is back Saturday against the Devils.
Lundell has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury March 7 in Buffalo.
During warmups, Lundell was back centering Florida’s third line with Mason Marchment and Sam Reinhart; Eetu Luostarinen centers the fourth line.
Claude Giroux goes to the right side of Sam Bennett and Jonathan Huberdeau.
“(Luostarinen) is a rock for us, we play him everywhere and he is probably our most reliable two-way player we have on the team,” Brunette said.
“He is so smart of a player; he fits any mold and the versatility of our group is so important in the middle of the ice. He makes everyone around him more stable. He is a calming influence. He can play anywhere and he will help wherever he goes. He is the ultimate selfless player.”
— Although Patric Hornqvist was on the ice on Friday for a light pre-flight workout, Brunette said he would not travel with the team and would not return to the lineup until next week.
Hornqvist has missed the past three games.
Noel Acciari, who left Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, is also day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He will not play this weekend, either.
— Sergei Bobrovsky goes on Saturday.
Bobrovsky, the NHL’s Third Star of March after going 7-0 with two shutouts, is two wins away from tying Roberto Luongo’s franchise record for consecutive victories set in 2016.
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS
- When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
- Where: Prudential Center, Newark
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/NHL Network
- Radio: WQAM 560/SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-200); Puck line (-1.5, +120); Over/Under 7 (+105/-125)
- Last season: Did not play
- Season series — Tied 1-1: @New Jersey 7, Florida 3 (Nov. 9); @Florida 4, New Jersey 1(Nov. 18)
- All-time regular season series: Devils lead 56-33-6, 7 ties
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux
17 Mason Marchment // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 98 Maxim Mamin
42 Gus Forsling // 52 MacKenzie Weegar
8 Ben Chiarot // 7 Radko Gudas
18 Robert Hagg // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Petteri Lindbohm, Lucas Carlsson, Joe Thornton
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Aaron Ekblad (LTIR), Noel Acciari (UBI), Patric Hornqvist (UBI)
PROJECTED NEW JERSEY DEVILS LINEUP
17 Yegor Sharangovich // 86 Jack Hughes // 18 Dawson Mercer
90 Tomas Tatar // 13 Nico Hirschier // 63 Jesper Bratt
11 Andreas Johnsson // 70 Jesper Boqvist // 44 Miles Wood
16 Jimmy Vesey // 20 Michael McLeod // 14 Nathan Bastian
71 Jonas Siegenthaler // 7 Dougie Hamilton
33 Ryan Graves // 28 Damon Severson
24 TY Smith // 76 P.K. Subban
50 Nico Daws
32 Jon Gilles
New Jersey Devils line combinations courtesy DailyFaceoff.com