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New Jersey Heat

Sopranorutgers Back in Jersey again, another great trip to the swampland, another Florida loss.

The Panthers played their fifth back-to-back game here Saturday night, and the Panthers are 0-5 in such games. All five of their back-to-backers have come on the road, and this was the second time the Devils caught the Panthers playing a second game in as many nights.

A lot of the guys were talking about how tough it is to pull off as many back-to-backs as they've had to, and I'm sure its becoming a mental roadblock. "If we're on the road,'' one said, "we must be playing twice.'' The league -- and the Panthers bookkeepers -- want as many weekend games as they can get; to do that, you get this. Fair? Not really. Especially since Jersey has only played in two such games this year. But the thought is everyone has to go through it, and the Panthers are halfway through.

If they can stay within shouting distance of the playoffs, Florida will be happy to know that its almost over. From January on, the Panthers only have to play back-to-back games three times. Not bad.

-- The team is frustrated right now and rightfully so. They are getting penalties called at an alarming clip, almost twice as many as their opponents on many nights. Either the refs are picking on the Panthers, or they do some dumb stuff. Olli Jokinen says most of the penalties are right on, but he was ticked tonight so he might be retracting that one later on.

-- Had a rare South Florida doubleheader here this weekend. The Heat beat the Nets here Friday, then the Panthers played on Saturday. Many of the TVs inside the Meadowlands Racetrack had Calder on (got killed, thanks for asking) so all we needed was a visit by the Dolphins to make it an all-Dade/Broward sports weekend on the other side of the Hudson.

The Heat has had plenty of success against the Nets of late, and have played well here. After Friday's win, the Heat have won six straight overall, and have won seven of 11 -- including four playoff games -- at the Meadowlands.

Saturday, the Panthers completed the South Florida double-dip in Jersey, only they haven't been as successful here as their cousins from Dade County. After Saturday’s 4-2 loss, Florida has lost 23 of their past 28 games to the Devils (including the four-game sweep in the 2000 playoffs) and hadn't won in East Rutherford since Oct. 22, 2003.

Luckily for the Panthers, Saturday's game might have been their last at the 25-year-old arena. The Devils plan on moving into their new arena in Newark sometime during the 2007-08 season. Florida has won two of its past 12 here.

The Panthers sure won't miss the crummy visitors locker room, the one the size of a small classroom at Pembroke Lakes Elementary.Pemlakes

-- Patrik Elias owns the Panthers, anyone tell ya? Dude has 17 goals and 15 assists in 33 career games against the Cats. Jamie Langenbrunner, whom Joe Nieuwendyk tried to lure south this offseason, has eight goals and nine assists against the Panthers. Should have signed him.