Panthers-Devils Preview

Martin Brodeur has the New Jersey Devils back in the win

column.

The NHL-worst Florida Panthers have a chance to be there in

three straight games for the first time all season.

Brodeur could be in net for a second straight contest Saturday

night in New Jersey, where the Devils and Panthers meet for the

first time since last season’s first-round playoff matchup.

Out since Feb. 21 with a pinched nerve in his upper back and

neck, Brodeur made 17 saves and scored his third career goal off an

errant pass from Carolina’s Jordan Staal in Thursday’s 4-1 victory.

The Devils (14-11-6) had dropped three in a row overall and six

straight on the road.

“You know him coming back, he’s going to give you a boost,”

center Travis Zajac said. “But he was just awesome today.”

The Panthers don’t need to be reminded. Brodeur is 15-5-0 with a

1.90 goals-against average and three shutouts in his last 20

regular-season home starts against them.

The NHL’s all-time winningest goaltender started each game

during the 2012 Eastern Conference playoffs versus Florida,

stopping 57 of 61 shots in Game 6 and 7 victories – both went past

regulation – to give New Jersey its first playoff series win since

2007.

In the Panthers’ previous playoff appearance in 2000, Brodeur

stopped 98 of 104 shots in the Devils’ first-round sweep.

Florida (9-16-6) still has some playoff life this season, but

with a league-low 24 points, it will need a strong push over the

final five weeks if it’s going to make the postseason a year after

winning its first Southeast Division title.

The Panthers are heading in the right direction, defeating the

Hurricanes and the New York Rangers to open their season-high

five-game trip.

“That’s seven or eight solid periods in a row for us,” coach

Kevin Dineen said after Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers.

“That’s what we’re looking for.”

The Panthers have won consecutive road games for the first time

since a four-game stretch that started with a 3-1 victory over the

Devils on Feb. 11, 2012 – their last regular-season game at New

Jersey.

Florida last won three straight overall during a five-game run

March 11-20, 2012.

Jacob Markstrom has lost both times he’s faced the Devils, but

there’s a good chance he’ll make a third consecutive start for the

Panthers. Markstrom has stopped 77 of 79 shots on the trip after

coming within 3:48 of his first NHL shutout Thursday.

“I felt really good from the start to the finish,” Markstrom

said after making a career-high 44 saves.

If that continues, the Panthers’ league-worst penalty kill (74.2

percent) has a good chance of improving. It already has, failing

just once in seven short-handed chances in the last two games.

New Jersey is 4 for 10 with the man advantage in its last

three.

Forward Matt D’Agostini could make his Devils debut after being

acquired from St. Louis on Friday for a conditional seventh-round

pick in 2015. He has two points in 16 games after beginning the

season in Germany.

These clubs split four regular-season matchups in 2011-12, with

each winning once on the road.