The New Jersey Devils visit the Florida Panthers on Friday in a game that the Devils need to keep their spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. While the Devils haven’t been great on the road this season, the schedule favors them in this spot, as the Panthers play in-state rival Tampa Bay on Thursday and face Roberto Loungo’s former team, the Vancouver Canucks, on Sunday. Nobody would blame Loungo if he was looking ahead to that game a bit after his trials in Vancouver over the past two seasons.
Loungo’s fomer teammate, Cory Schneider, is involved in yet another goalie controversy, with Martin Brodeur having earned wins in his last four starts, one reason the Devils are now just two points out of a playoff spot. New Jersey plays Tampa Bay on Saturday, so it’s likely each goaltender will play one game on the brief road trip.
Tuomo Ruutu has four points in three games with the Devils after having just 16 points in 57 games with Carolina and Jaromir Jagr is enjoying a solid season at age 41 and hasn’t slowed down one bit. The Devils are likely to be small road favorites, but are worth a small shot.
On Saturday, the Ottawa Senators visit the Montreal Canadians in a game the road team desperately needs to win, as the Senators are falling farther behind in the playoff race after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
The Canadians are still in good shape in the playoff race even after having lost their last three games with Peter Budaj in goal after Carey Price tweaked an injury during the Olympics. Budaj was having a decent season in spot starts for Montreal, but as often happens, when a backup is forced into action for an extended period of time, they become exposed a bit, as is the case with Budaj, who has allowed 14 goals in his last three starts.
A struggling goaltender isn’t a good thing when playing the high-scoring Senators, but the Senators aren’t that good defensively, making the over 5.5 goals worth a wager.
On Sunday, Loungo should get a chance to go against his former team and while he handled the fiasco in Vancouver with class, don’t believe for a moment that he wouldn’t like anything more than to shut down his former team, further damaging their fading playoff hopes.
Eddie Lack has been up-and-down since Loungo was traded, no doubt feeling a bit of pressure about being thrust into the No. 1 role on a full-time basis and will no doubt feel a little bit of that pressure here. The Canucks may be small favorites and look for the Panthers to get a win.
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