By David Kolb
FLORIDA PANTHERS (17-16-8) @ NEW JERSEY DEVILS (16-17-8)
THIRD OF THREE
Tonight the Devils host the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center for the third and final game of the season series between the two clubs. This is the first game between the teams in Newark this season, as the Panthers took the first two games in South Florida – both in the extra session. The matchup will mark the third game at The Rock in four nights for the Devils, as New Jersey dropped the first two, losing Friday to Toronto and Saturday to Edmonton. Meanwhile, the Panthers are struggling, losers of six of their past eight games. They have only scored three goals in their past four contests and were shutout 4-0 Saturday against Boston.
Rookie Miles Wood is looking more comfortable on the ice, as he scored the Devils’ lone goal Saturday. He has two points in the last two games (one goal, one assist), and has three points (one goal, two assists) in four games in January. The 21-year-old Wood now has five goals and two assists for seven points this season.
The Devils will face a Panthers team riddled with injuries, despite the strong possibility that goalie Roberto Luongo will return from an illness to start between the pipes tonight. While Luongo will return, the Cats will skate without Nick Bjugstad, Alexsander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Greg McKegg for tonight’s tilt.
Lost in the Devils struggles has been the ever-improving play of 22-year-old backliner Damon Severson. The Devils’ second-round pick in the 2012 Draft has two assists in two games against the Panthers this season and Saturday versus the Edmonton Oilers, he skated a career-high 28:05 of ice-time. Severson has two assists in his past three games and three goals with 17 assists for 20 points through 41 games.
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Panthers’ center Jonathan Marchessault got out of the gate quickly in 2016-17, scoring six goals and five assists in October. Despite not maintaining his torrid pace, Marchessault is still producing and he has a goal and two assists in his past five games. In two games vs. the Devils this season, he’s tallied a goal and an assist, while in 34 games, the native of Cap-Rouge, Quebec has 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points –a career high.