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Devils Look to Get Back to Winning Ways

By: Meghann Bowman

Tonight, the New Jersey Devils return home with hopes of putting their tumultuous road trip, and a 3-game losing streak, behind them. Very few positives can be taken away from the last few games as the high-flying Devils were brought back down to earth and their impeccable road record tarnished. The Devils are a turning point where they can let their lackluster play during this losing streak define them, or they can get back on track. The rest of the season starts tonight against the Florida Panthers and is a must-win for the Devils.

The Panthers come into New Jersey in 21-20-8, 11th in the Eastern Conference, and fighting for the much coveted 8th spot and. They are riding a hot Tomas Vokoun a 3-game win streak in which they defeated division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning in a home and home, and Atlanta Thrashers in a 1-0 shutout.

The last time the Devils and Panthers met, the Devils 4-2, in a game that was headlined by Scott Clemmensen’s solid play while convincingly defeating his former team. Clemmensen’s feel-good story line was backed by a solid 60-minute effort by the Panthers, while the Devils inconsistent play and slow start thwarted any chances of success, much like on their current losing streak.

After a day off to rest and reflect, it is imperative for the Devils to get back on track, and it starts with giving a full 60-minute effort and starting the game with a sense of urgency. During the Devils 3-game skid, they have left the ice down 2-0 after the first period. It is crucial for them to start the game strong and score the first goal tonight.

Though the Devils have registered 92 shots the past 3 games, they have been out scored 11-4 the past 3 games. They have to strive for more quality chances, as their shot total is a bit deceiving. The Devils top line has to contribute be their best line, especially with the loss of Patrick Elias; Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner only accounted for one goal in the past 3 games. Not only has the Devils top scored failed to produce, but their lackluster power play is 0-9 and has to start producing.

Offensive woes aren’t the only thing plaguing the Devils, as defensive breakdowns have been the nail in the coffin. Uncharacteristically, the Devils defense has been out of position, leading to crucial goals for the opposition. In the loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, Colin White got caught up in the rush, leaving Peter Mueller wide open to cash in on a 1-on-1 against Martin Brodeur to make it 2-0. While in the loss the Islanders, Matt Moulson had all day in the slot to stickhandle and get a perfect shot off to beat Brodeur and give the Isles a 2-0 lead.

Simply put, tighter defense and goal production, coupled with a 60-minute effort is crucial for the Devils to defeat the Panthers tonight, and get back to their winning ways.

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