By Alison Meyers, The Hockey Writers
The New Jersey Devils return to the Prudential Center for Stanley Cup Playoff action for the first time since 2010 with a 1-1 tie in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Florida Panthers.
There is no doubt that the Devils are eager to come home after helping Martin Brodeur earn his 100th playoff win and getting head coach Peter DeBoer his first NHL playoff victory. The fans will be ready as well, as they spent last season playoff-deprived after making the postseason for 13 straight years.
While the Panthers have remained competitive despite being seen as the inferior team, the Devils need to take advantage of being back in the confines of Newark.
In no particular order, here are some predictions for the Red and Black in Tuesday’s Game 3.
Zach Parise Will Score His First Goal of the Playoffs
Parise had three assists through the Devils’ final three regular season games, but he has not had a goal since March 31 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In addition, he has not had more than one goal in a postseason run since tallying three in the 2009 playoffs, also against Carolina.
Parise has put up at least 30 goals in five of his seven seasons in New Jersey. On Tuesday night, he will bring some of that magic to the game and help the Devils as they try to gain the advantage over Florida.
Adam Henrique Will Break Points Drought
Henrique has an assist and a minus-one in the first two playoff games, but he went scoreless at the end of the regular season.
However, he has recently showed he is more comfortable playing at The Rock. In 17 games in March, he posted nine points, and seven of those came at home.
Henrique will be back in his comfort zone on Tuesday, and he will use the opportunity to make a mark among other rookies competing in the playoffs.
The Devils Will Find Penalty Kill Success
New Jersey finished the regular season with a penalty kill of 89.6 percent, good for tops in the NHL.
But in the playoffs, it has not had the same success while shorthanded. It is 15th among postseason teams with a 57.1 percent success rate and surrendered three power-play goals to the Panthers. Florida scored six goals in the first two games, so this was half of its goal output.
Through the first 82 games, the Devils were shorthanded less at home (118 times) than on the road (184 times). This will give them more time to focus on staying out of the box and shutting down Florida’s power play, which is second among playoff teams with a 42.9 percent success rate.
The Devils Will Take Advantage of Home Ice
New Jersey did not get home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals, as it was the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, it has to be excited to be back at the Prudential Center, which is hosting a playoff game for the first time in two years.
The Devils have had playoff disappointments in the last two series they had home ice. In the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, they suffered one of the most disappointing and embarrassing playoff losses in NHL history when they surrendered two goals in the final 80 seconds of Game 7 against the Hurricanes. New Jersey was up 3-2 in the game, but Olli Jokinen and Eric Staal scored 48 seconds apart to stun the Devils and end their season.
Then, in the 2010 quarterfinals, the Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. The Game 5 loss happened in Newark, where the Devils were shutout, 3-0.
New Jersey has had two years to deal with disappointments of postseasons past and will return to Newark ready to play. It was 24-13-4 at home in the regular season, accounting for half of its 48 wins.
Plus, the Devils fans will be anxious to see puck drop and will be loud in welcoming the team home. This should help the team take a 2-1 series lead.