Coach John Hynes gave his New Jersey Devils a well-deserved day off in the middle of the week to regroup during a busy stretch that sends them into the NHL's holiday break.
An extra day to get healthy is something Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers could use as well.
The former Devil hopes to return from a one-game absence to try and help Florida end an eight-game road losing streak to New Jersey on Thursday night.
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The Devils (16-11-4) on Friday began a stretch where they won't have more than one day between games – including one back-to-back set – through Dec. 22 before a three-day break over the holidays. They followed a listless 4-0 road loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday with Tuesday's 2-0 victory at Buffalo.
Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty scored for New Jersey, which now seeks its first back-to-back wins since Nov. 12 and 14.
''It's a huge win for us,'' Stempniak said. ''We didn't play our best against the Islanders. Came back and had a good response, stuck with it, weathered the storm at times and did enough to win.''
Adam Henrique, tied with Kyle Palmieri for the team lead with 13 goals, returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury and had an assist. Hynes hopes having Wednesday off from any activity will help Tuomo Ruutu rest a broken foot that has forced him to miss 27 games.
There's a possibility Ruutu could play in this contest, and Travis Zajac also is nearing his return from an upper-body injury.
“It's important to get points,” said Cory Schneider, who had 25 saves in his second shutout of the season. “We keep talking about it. I know it gets old. We get injuries, it's fatigue. We have seven games in 12 days going into the break. Keep ourselves in it and keep clawing away and maybe get to the Christmas break and kind of reset a little bit.”
New Jersey has won eight straight home games against the Panthers, including the playoffs, and extended that run when Stempniak, Palmieri, Henrique and Mike Cammalleri scored in a 4-2 victory Dec. 6.
Jagr had two assists in his first game back in New Jersey since the Devils traded him to Florida on Feb. 26. He needs one goal to stand alone in fourth place on the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list, but the flu forced him to sit out Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Islanders.
The Panthers (15-12-4) won for the sixth time in their last eight road games despite also missing two other forwards. Nick Bjustad is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, and Derek MacKenzie will miss at least the Panthers' next two with a lower-body issue.
Reilly Smith scored for the third time in four games. Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau also had goals.
“We're missing some top players,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “But hey, that's part of the game, that's part of the NHL. Everybody has injuries and you've got to get through it. We called some guys up and we played a good, solid team game.”
Robert Luongo made 33 saves and could be back in net for this one. Luongo, a teammate of Schneider's in Vancouver from 2008-13, has a 1.87 GAA over his last seven starts.