Still seeking first win, Devils host Panthers

Sports
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Two struggling teams will meet on Monday afternoon as the New Jersey Devils host the Florida Panthers.

The Devils — who are in last place among the 16 teams in the Eastern Conference — have lost five straight games to start this season, including two that went past regulation.

“We need to get a win, get some confidence,” Devils goalie Cory Schneider said. “Hopefully, it snowballs from there.”

The Panthers are off to a slightly better start, with one win and four points in five games. But the Panthers have lost three straight games, including two in a row in shootouts.

On Friday, the Panthers outscored the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in the third period before losing the shootout. On Saturday, the Panthers outscored the New York Islanders 1-0 in the third period before again failing in the shootout.

“We’ve got to learn to play the way we played in the third period,” Panthers center Aleksander Barkov said. “The way we battled back — that needs to be our 60-minute game.

“In the second period, we got a little cute. We started to make stupid plays, and it cost us a couple of goals.”

The Panthers, who used backup goalie Sam Montembeault on Saturday, are expected to go back to starter Sergei Bobrovsky on Monday. Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers in July, is off to a slow start. He is 1-2-1 with a 3.87 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage.

Poor goaltending was an issue last season, when the Panthers missed the playoffs for the third year in a row. Goalie Roberto Luongo, destined for the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, retired after the season, and backup James Reimer was traded, clearing the way for Bobrovsky.

So far, it has not helped, which could be an indictment of Panthers defensemen and forwards as well.

Offensively, the Panthers remain dangerous, with winger Mike Hoffman leading the way with five goals and two assists. But Barkov, who had career highs last season with 35 goals, 61 assists and 96 points, has yet to light up the scoreboard. He has no goals and three assists.

The Devils, who have been shut out twice in the past three games, have their own issues. Taylor Hall, named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, has identical stats as Barkov — no goals and three assists.

No Devils player has more than three points so far.

Devils goalies also have struggled. Schneider is 0-2 with a 3.33 GAA and an .897 save percentage. MacKenzie Blackwood is 0-1-2 with a 4.90 GAA and an .821 save percentage.

The Devils failed to make the playoffs last season after qualifying the prior year. Over the summer, they drafted center Jack Hughes, 18, with the NHL’s top overall pick, acquired 30-year-old defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators and added 31-year-old winger Wayne Simmonds as a free agent.

In five games, Hughes has no points while Subban and Simmonds each have been held to just one assist.

–Field Level Media

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