New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers Pick & Prediction MARCH 5th 2024

Travis Green will make his interim coaching debut for the Devils on Tuesday night when New Jersey faces the streaking Florida Panthers in Newark, N.J.

The Devils fired coach Lindy Ruff on Monday after suffering their fifth loss in seven games — a 5-1 setback against the Kings in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The 64-year-old Ruff was 128-125-28 in three-plus seasons with the Devils. New Jersey made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season but is struggling to remain in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt in 2023-24.

“I hold our entire organization to the highest levels of accountability to focus on being a competitive team that expects to be a perennial playoff contender,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said on Monday. “Unfortunately, we are not currently at that level, and I needed to make this decision.”

The Devils are tied for 26th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.49) and are 17th on the penalty kill (79.2 percent). New Jersey ranks 31st in team save percentage (.882).

The Devils have not put together a three-game winning streak since Dec. 23-29.

On Sunday, Timo Meier gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead 15 seconds into the game, but things got away from the Devils during a 34-second segment of the second period. First, the Kings scored on a three-on-two rush off a turnover to make it 3-1 at the 12:23 mark. Six seconds later, New Jersey defenseman John Marino took a tripping penalty, and 28 seconds after that, the Kings added a power-play goal.

“At times I don’t think it’s about effort. It’s more between the ears,” Devils forward Erik Haula said. “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We keep making similar mistakes. At this time of the year, it’s going to hurt you.”

The Panthers provide a tough test in Green’s debut. Florida beat the New York Rangers 4-2 on Monday night for its fifth straight win. The Panthers have won 15 of their past 17 games to gain a two-point cushion atop the overall standings in the NHL.

Sam Reinhart scored two goals and Ryan Lomberg scored the game-winner in the third period on Monday. Aleksander Barkov set up both of Reinhart’s goals, and Gustav Forsling also had two assists. Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves for the Panthers.

“What we’re trying to do this month, and I think we play 11 (games against) playoff teams this month and our schedule is heavy, is figure out different ways to win and talk about the different ways,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “(Monday), we figured out that we need to skate a certain way. Every opponent is different.”

Reinhart has 44 goals for the season and five in his past three games.

“That’s kind of the way it goes for me in my career,” Reinhart said. “When one goes, it seems to open the floodgates a little bit. I’m just trying to get to the net and find the open places.”

Only Pavel Bure (58 markers in 1999-00 and 59 in 2000-01) has scored more goals in a season as a Panther.

The Panthers, who improved to 22-8-2 on the road this season with Monday’s win, won 4-3 at New Jersey on Oct. 16. The Devils returned the favor with a 4-1 win at Florida on Jan. 13.

–Field Level Media

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