NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The New Jersey Devils host the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center at 7:30 p.m. ET followed by the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Minnesota Wild from Staples Center at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The Western Conference playoff race isn’t quite as exciting as the Eastern Conference, but when the Kings host the Wild tonight, it’s a crucial game for Minnesota.
The Wild have the Coyotes nipping at their heels in the wild card race. Minnesota has the first wild card with 87 points and Phoenix is right behind them with 84. The Wild would ideally like to get some distance on the Coyotes as the Dallas Stars are just one point back of them and in this situation, three is definitely a crowd.
One problem for the Wild will be dealing with a Kings team that’s won six in a row and 14 of the past 17 games. L.A. is rolling and causing headaches for either the San Jose Sharks or Anaheim Ducks when it comes to the playoffs. Whoever doesn’t win the Pacific Division of those two teams has a date with the Kings in the first round.
Facing the Kings means having your hands full with Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. That means Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Suter have their work cut out for them.
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In New Jersey, the Devils are hoping to keep the playoff dream alive. With eight games to play, the Devils are five points behind Columbus for the second wild card. A loss to Florida would put a major dent in their hopes and any slip-ups from here on out are potential season-enders.
Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, and Adam Henrique have been the offensive studs for New Jersey this season with Jagr outpacing everyone. Leave it to a legend to show the way. In goal, things have been a bit more nerve-wracking as Cory Schneider has been in a funk and Martin Brodeur has stayed at about the same level he has this season. Hearing Brodeur talk about what his future might have in store for him isn’t helping much either.
The Devils catch a bit of a break facing a Panthers team that has Roberto Luongo out injured. The Devils also have to be happy Florida is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. Scottie Upshall leads the team with 35 points and Brad Boyes is the top goal man with 19.
Unless Brodeur or Schneider are totally off their game, the next two games on New Jersey’s schedule could help them put a scare into the rest of the teams chasing the wild card in the East as they head to Buffalo on Tuesday.