NEWARK (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Panthers are a team still searching for an identity.
The Panthers have been forced to use their depth this month and it has not stopped them from finding ways to register victories.
Florida knocked off the red-hot New York Islanders on Tuesday without four key regulars up front and attempts to follow up that gritty performance with another when it visits the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
The Panthers have won seven of their last 10 after defeating the Islanders 5-1 without future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr (illness) and three of their top centers.
“When we go out and play our game, we’re a good team,” Florida forward Vincent Trocheck told the Miami Herald. “This team, our culture here, is us coming together and not playing as individuals.”
New Jersey has used a similar formula to put itself in a playoff position, gaining at least one point in eight of its last 10 games (5-2-3) after blanking Buffalo 2-0 on Tuesday.
Cory Schneider posted his second shutout of the season in that contest and has allowed two goals or fewer in 16 of his last 19 games.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Florida, MSG Plus (New Jersey)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (15-12-4): Jagr, who is tied with Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the all-time list with 731 goals, returned to practice Wednesday while centers Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Derek MacKenzie (knee) and Dave Bolland (sent to minors) are not expected to play.
Veteran Jussi Jokinen has notched four points in four games to tie Jagr for the team lead with 21 while Reilly Smith has recorded three goals in his last four contests.
Roberto Luongo owns a .925 save percentage this month but gave up four goals in a loss at New Jersey on Dec. 6.
ABOUT THE DEVILS (16-11-4): Adam Henrique returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing a pair of games with a lower-body injury and contributed an assist for his 10th point in the last 10 contests.
Kyle Palmieri has scored six goals in his last nine games to tie Henrique for the team lead (13) and Lee Stempniak has eight overall after tallying three times in his last five contests.
Mike Cammalleri snapped a three-game point drought with an assist against Buffalo and leads the team with 31, including nine on the power play.
- The Devils have beaten the Panthers eight straight times at home, dating back to their 2012 first-round playoff series.
- Jagr is tied with former Detroit D Nicklas Lidstrom for second on the NHL’s all-time list for power-play points (590).
- New Jersey C Travis Zajac (upper body) and LW Tuomo Ruutu (foot) could return to the lineup soon.
The Panthers face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.
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