The New Jersey Devils will end their road trip on Long Island tonight, playing, well, the Islanders. The other two games on this road trip weren't all that great, with an awful 4-0 loss in Florida and a fortunate 3-2 shootout win in Tampa Bay. But the Devils did literally turn the corner in that Tampa Bay after a bad first period; perhaps they are trending up and therefore do well against the Islanders tonight.
The Devils have not lost to the Islanders all season, however, I have a feeling tonight may be a bit different. For starters, the Islanders have nothing to lose in this game - their season is set. As we saw with Tampa Bay, being out of the playoffs as early as December doesn't mean much on any given night.
More importantly, from this edition of Splinters at Lighthouse Hockey, there's actually going to be a fan movement at this game. Everyone at the game is being asked to wear white by other fans as to show their support for the Islanders and to show united support for the Lighthouse Project in Hempstead. The project, as I understand it, is a development plan for Hempstead, NY wherein the Islanders would be the centerpiece. A new arena would be built and guarantee the team's status. From Let There Be Light(house), there will be a town hall meeting to discuss the Lighthouse Project in Hempstead on Tuesday morning. No wonder it's Town of Hempstead night at Nassau! Basically, I'm expecting a pretty strong atmosphere for the Islanders and say what you will about their performance this season, it's a big feeling to have the support of thousands. If the Devils aren't careful and they let the Islanders get some momentum, it could be another long night like it was in Tampa Bay.
What's more is that Paul Martin will definitely not play in this game, according to Chere. So hopefully the rest of the defenders can step it up. They didn't really do that, in allowing 41 shots on Weekes in Tampa Bay. Chere also states that Scott Clemmensen is the likely starter - which is fine. The game may give him a chance to regain some confidence after the 4-0 loss to Florida, his last start. From Gulitti's update yesterday, Zach Parise and Bryce Salvador has a bit of the flu (Parise had to leave for part of the Lightning game because of it!). I assume they'll still play, I haven't read anything to contrary yet.
Given the expected crowd support, the Devils initial goal will really be to deflate this crowd as soon as possible. Hey, don't get me wrong. I want the Islanders to stay in Long Island. But I don't want the Devils to lose in the process. What kind of a Devils fan would want that?! The Islanders are dead last in the league and the season has been like a nightmare. Take their last game for example. Richard Park broke some ribs as the Carolina Hurricanes broke the Islanders 6-2. The loss means the team has gone 2-6-1 so far this month, including a 4-2 loss to New Jersey. The team is truly rebuilding after sneaking a first rounder from Ottawa (which is really San Jose's) and a healthy centerman in Dean McAmmond for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli. So the roster is a little weaker in the short term. And it wasn't all that strong to begin with.
Basically, the Devils haven't had a really good first period since, well, the Rangers game (you can make a case for the Boston and San Jose games, I suppose). They would do well to make an effort to have a really good one tonight. If they do that, maintain a majority of the puck possession, and get some goals early; then this game will go a lot better for the Islanders. Should the Islanders have the support I think they do and given their recent struggles, the worst thing the Devils could do is have a repeat performance of how they started out in the last two games. The Islanders will see the opportunity and be foolish to not take it!
In any case, GameThread will be up later and closer to gametime. Since it's an away game, I'll be able to put any additional updates about the game there. Feel free to discuss the game here in the meantime. Check out Lighthouse Hockey and Chris Botta for the Islanders' side of things. Go Devils.