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19-18-9

Panthers-Devils Preview

AP - Sports

The New Jersey Devils stumbled a bit before earning two points their last time out.

A visit from the Florida Panthers could help them make it two wins in a row.

The Devils try to continue their home domination of the Panthers when these teams meet for the first time Saturday night.

New Jersey (18-18-9) had gone 0-2-1 before pulling out its first win of 2014, 1-0 over Dallas on Thursday. Michael Ryder scored and Cory Schneider made 26 saves for his third shutout.

Ryder leads the team with 15 goals, 10 of which have come since the start of December. The veteran winger has scored in three straight and four of five.

"He's got a knack for getting in the right place at the right time in the right moment in the game," Devils coach Peter DeBoer told the NHL's official website. "Obviously it's confidence, like a lot of different parts of the game. When the puck is on his stick he feels like it's going to go in. I don't know how you manufacture that, but we'll keep riding him."

The Devils may also look to ride Schneider again, as DeBoer said he was "leaning toward" giving him a second consecutive start.

"We don't give him a lot of run support and I think he's starting to get used to that," DeBoer said of Schneider, whose goals-support average of 1.58 is third-lowest in the league. "He's figured it out that he has to pitch a shutout."

Schneider is among the NHL leaders with a 2.02 goals-against average and has posted a 1.01 mark in his last three starts. He and teammate Martin Brodeur have combined to allow 107 goals.

"Playing them is like crawling through a barbed-wire fence with a wool jacket on," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the Devils. "They've got big bodies. They defend well. You have to give them a lot of credit for it. You have to get them down."

The Panthers can surely relate, having dropped 13 of 17 at New Jersey by a combined 56-31 score. Florida has been held to two or fewer goals in all but four games during that stretch.

Schneider won his only start against Florida, 5-3 on Dec. 14, 2008 while with Vancouver. Brodeur is 17-5-0 with a 1.87 GAA and three shutouts in his last 22 home starts in the series.

The Panthers (17-21-6) are coming off Thursday's 2-1 shootout win at Buffalo, leaving them at 3-1-1 in their last five. Brad Boyes, who has three goals and four assists during that stretch, scored the tying goal 9:16 into the third period before notching the only shootout goal.

"We need points and we got them, found a way," Boyes said. "It's something we talk about as we're going with young guys. Whether it's a good win or a bad win, points are points."

Tim Thomas made 23 saves in his fourth game since returning from a groin injury. He's gone 5-1-1 with a 1.78 GAA in his last seven starts.

"Timmy played great obviously," coach Peter Horachek said. "He made some great saves. ... He kept us in the game."

Thomas posted a 1.42 GAA and one shutout in winning his last seven starts against the Devils while with Boston.

Florida has compiled a 7-4-1 road record since opening 1-8-1 away from home.

The Panthers' power-play percentage of 7.1 (6 of 84) on the road is last in the league. The Devils rank second with a 91.3 penalty-kill percentage at home.

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