Season series: Second of four meetings this season. Dmitry Kulikov scored 3:36 into overtime to give Florida a 3-2 win at the BankAtlantic Center on Jan. 15. Evgeny Dadonov and Dennis Wideman scored power-play goals for the Panthers in regulation, while Nick Palmieri and David Clarkson had the goals for the Devils.
Big story: Firing John MacLean just prior to Christmas and bringing back Jacques Lemaire initially seemed to have no effect on shaking New Jersey from the doldrums -- the Devils lost three straight and seven of eight following the coaching change. But now they appear to have hit their stride, going 5-0-1 over their last six with victories in the past several days over two elite teams in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins and Flyers.
Devils: For the first time this season, New Jersey has put three consecutive wins together. It started with a matinee defeat of the Islanders on Monday, and then the Devils really started to open some eyes by blanking the Penguins 2-0 on Thursday and going into Philadelphia to down the East-leading Flyers 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. Patrik Elias scored a pair of goals and Johan Hedberg, making his first start since he was pulled from a game at the Wells Fargo Center two weeks earlier, stopped 26 shots.
"The last time we were here it was kind of the start of our turnaround," Hedberg told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We played a good game that we lost, 2-1, but things have been getting better and better. We're simplifying things. I think we're skating harder."
Panthers: Tomas Vokoun started the last two games for Florida after backup Scott Clemmensen got the nod in three straight. Regardless of who's been in net, the Panthers have been playing plenty of extra hockey -- each of their last four games has been decided in either overtime or the shootout, and they've dropped three in a row since edging the Devils. Vokoun made 20 saves against the rival Lightning on Friday, but Dominic Moore beat him in the penalty-shot tiebreaker as the Panthers finished 3-0-3 on a six-game homestand after a fast start.
"I would have taken that for sure," coach Peter DeBoer said about getting nine of a possible 12 points. "We have to keep building on that. But it was a good homestand and keeps us in the mix."
Who's hot: Cory Stillman has 2 goals and 5 assists during a six-game points streak for the Panthers. Kulikov has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak, but missed Friday's game with a rib injury. … Elias has 4 goals and 4 assists in his last six games for the Devils. Brian Rolston has 2 goals and 6 assists in his last six games.
Injury report: Kulikov is day-to-day for Florida, while fellow defenseman Bryan McCabe will miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a jaw fracture and requiring surgery. Forward Chris Higgins is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury.
New Jersey defenseman Colin White is day-to-day after leaving Saturday's game with a lower-body injury. Palmieri (upper body) and fellow forward Vladimir Zharkov (illness) are also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game. Defenseman Matthew Corrente is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury, while blueliner Matt Taormina, who has been on injured reserve, will undergo surgery on his ankle Monday.
Stat pack: DeBoer could be tempted to look Clemmensen's way for Sunday's game, as he's now 3-0-0 against the Devils since joining the Panthers. … Martin Brodeur, who is expected to get the nod for the home team, is coming off his fourth shutout of the season and has a 4-0-1 record in his past five starts.
Puck drop: New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who opened the scoring Saturday and assisted on the Elias empty-netter, credits Lemaire with the team's recent improvements.
"We've managed to turn this poor start of ours around," Tallinder said. "He changed everything when he came here."