SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers got a desperate Devils team last Saturday night in Newark and expect more of the same tonight at FLA Live Arena.
The Devils are one of the most surprising stories in the NHL this season, getting off to a 16-3-0 start fueled by a 13-game winning streak.
But things have cooled considerably.
New Jersey comes to town following a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Devils (0-5-1) as Carolina overtook them for first in the Metropolitan Division.
Florida beat the Devils 4-2 last weekend.
”I thought they played well last night, they had all the offense you needed and Carolina’s goaltender was fantastic,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “I don’t think they play a heavy game so they can handle the back-to-back. They play a speed game and I think they’ll be every bit as fast and even more desperate tonght.”
The Panthers will be getting center Anton Lundell back after he missed the past nine games.
Lundell had three goals and four points in the four games played before getting hurt in Seattle on Dec. 3 and he will be back with the red-hot Sam Reinhart who has five goals and eight points in the past four games.
“It is huge to get him back going,” Reinhart said. “He is an important piece.’’
Added Maurice: “We do not have the time to ease him back in. He has to be ready to go.”
PANTHERS INJURY UPDATES
While Lundell will be back in the lineup on Wednesday, Florida will continue to be without captain Sasha Barkov after he was knocked out of Saturday’s game by a shot to the knee from New Jersey’s Nico Hischier.
Barkov did skate before the Panthers took the ice for the morning skate with Maurice saying he may not play Friday against the Islanders, either.
“There is a chance and we’ll go day-by-day,” Maurice said. “If he felt strong and we were felt comfortable with it, we would consider it. I’m just giving you the (medical) report I got and that was not to gameplan for him on the Island.”
Maurice added that Chris Tierney and Radko Gudas may miss the next two games as well.
All three could be back for Florida’s post-break game against the Canadiens on Dec. 29.
— Aleksi Heponiemi did not skate on Wednesday and appeared to be sent back to Charlotte.
With Gudas still on IR, Florida has an empty roster spot with the expectation the newly-acquired Givani Smith would join the team.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
NEW JERSEY DEVILS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- National TV: TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Draft Kings odds — Panthers favored: Moneyline (-135); Puck line (-1.5, +180); Over/Under 6.5 (-120/+100)
- Season Series (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4, Devils 2 (Dec. 17)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Devils lead 56-34-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Friday at New York Islanders, 7:30 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 21 Nick Cousins
14 Grigori Denisenko // 22 Zac Dalpe // 6 Colin White
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 3 Matt Kiersted
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Colin White (UBI), Chris Tierney (UBI), Sasha Barkov (LBI), Radko Gudas (UBI)
Scratched: Givani Smith
PROJECTED NEW JERSEY DEVILS LINEUP
90 Tomas Tatar // 13 Nico Hischier // 49 Fabian Zetterlund
56 Erik Haula // 86 Jack Hughes // 63 Jesper Bratt
44 Miles Wood // 20 Michael McLeod // 70 Jesper Boqvist
17 Yegor Sharangovich // 91 Dawson Mercer // 10 Alexander Holtz
71 Jonas Siegenthaler // 7 Dougie Hamilton
33 Ryan Graves // 6 John Marino
2 Brendan Smith // 28 Damon Severson
29 MacKenzie Blackwood
41 Vitek Vanecek