Panthers leaning towards backup again

Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen may start Game 6 against the Devils tonight. (Ray...

Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen may start Game 6 against the Devils tonight. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

NEWARK, N.J. - Peter DeBoer couldn't have hit the nail on the head any more squarely on Tuesday morning.

"Expect the unexpected," the coach of the New Jersey Devils said, referring to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as a whole.

Within a half-hour of DeBoer's comment, the unexpected came out of the Florida Panthers' dressing room.

The Panthers will clinch the Eastern Conference quarterfinal at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night with a victory, and if that happens, it appears it would be without their No. 1 goalie.

Jose Theodore has had knee problems this season, and whether that is the problem again, did not participate in the morning skate.

Scott Clemmensen was told by the team on Monday to prepare to start, and the Panthers also recalled Jacob Markstrom from San Antonio of the AHL.

The Panthers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Clemmensen won Game 3 in relief of Theodore a week ago. But Clemmensen could not come up with a similar performance in Game 4, which the Devils won 4-0 with a 26-save shutout by Martin Brodeur.

"It's not like I have been on the bench for three weeks now," Clemmensen said. "I have been playing pretty regularly throughout the course of the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. My game is still right there. I don't anticipate there being any rust."

A former Devil, Clemmensen noted that in 2008 with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL playoffs, he was 4-0 in games that the Marlies needed to win in order to avoid being eliminated. But like the rest of the Panthers, he wants to finish off the Devils on Tuesday.

"(The Devils) want to win just as badly as I do," Clemmensen said. "I have good friends over there, and they want to beat me. I want to beat them."

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said a final decision on Theodore would not be made until later in the day once he received a medical report. Theodore was sharp in a 3-0 shutout in Game 5 on Saturday in Sunrise, making 30 saves. And he got through practice on Monday without problems, Dineen said.

"We decided to give Theo the morning off and see where he is tonight," Dineen said. "He is a little bit tender right now. We will evaluate as the day moves on to see if he is ready to play or not.

"We are leaning toward a side of precaution. We felt we needed an extra backup and that is why Jacob is out there."

Still, few observers figured Theodore will be in goal. Clemmensen sounded like someone who knew he would start.

The Devils didn't know of the possible goaltending change, and they were more concerned with themselves anyway.

"Everybody is judged on their playoff success," DeBoer said. "I don't think anyone is going to go home patting themselves on the back if the season ends tonight.

"(We are) a little angry and focused. As a group we have put ourselves in this spot and we have to get ourselves out of it. I anticipate a strong effort from everybody. There is a lot of pride in that room and I expect this to be our best game."

Said Devils forward David Clarkson: "We know what we have to do. We know what is ahead of us. This is it, do or die. We have to come out and not try to do too much. We have a lot of confidence in each other."

Panthers defenceman Jason Garrison (lower body) will not play. Defenceman Keaton Ellerby (lower body) will be a game-time decision.

Meanwhile, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, who overhauled the Panthers roster last summer, has been named as one of three finalists for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award. Also in the running are David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues.

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