Game 67 Preview: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders

The Time: 7 PM EST/4 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV: MSG+2 (Islanders' feed is on MSG+ if you need HD that badly); Radio: 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (40-23-3) at the New York Islanders (26-32-9)

The Last Devils Game: It was last night, it was emotional, it was intense, it was exciting, and it was a win for the New Jersey Devils.  Ilya Kovalchuk and Andy Greene shined as did Martin Brodeur en route to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The win was the first time the Devils won two straight since January 12 and now the Devils are 5-0 against the Penguins.  I recapped the game here with praise and criticism.

The Last Islanders Game: The Islanders took on the St. Louis Blues and it was a close, exciting affair.  Martin Biron and Chris Mason both stood tall as both teams took it to each other. A shootout was required, where the Blues pulled ahead for the win. While the Islanders got a point, they still remain on the outside looking in - standing still as the playoff bubble floats on through March.  Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey recapped the game here.

The Last Devils-Islanders Game: The New Jersey Devils went into Nassau Coliseum looking for revenge that night and got it with a 4-2 win.  The game itself was odd as the Devils played an entire second period without putting a shot directly on Rick DiPietro and managed to score a goal at the end (Zach Parise's pass to the slot got deflected in by Freddy Meyer).  It definitely wasn't a good second period as the Islanders cashed in twice on a 5 minute power play due to Colin White's hit from behind on Sean Bergenheim; but despite the deluge of shots, the Devils took over in the third period with a goal to re-take the lead and holding the Islanders to at least 10 minutes without a shot on goal.   I praised the win, whereas Dominik felt the Islanders blew a chance to build on their second period success.

The Goal:  Continue to build on the good work done in the last two games - which requires maintaining focus.  Friday night's game had a lot of tempers flaring, emotions running high, and so forth.  The Devils will need to dig deep to get up for this game and make a statement against the Islanders.  While the Devils have done well to get two wins in a row, the Devils have not done well on the road with only two road wins since January 12.  The Islanders may have struggled more recently (as Gulitti pointed out, they are 3-12-1 in their last 15), but tell that to the Blues who needed extra time and a shootout to beat them on Thursday.  If the Devils aren't careful, the Islanders may roll them over.

Apologies for the very late preview.  There's not a whole lot of new news on the Devils' side of things so there's not a whole lot to say.  Do check out Lighthouse Hockey for Dominik's preview of tonight's game. I have a few more thoughts going into tonight's game after the jump.

The Islanders aren't just struggling as of late, but they've been hit with injuries. Center Rob Schremp is out for the rest of the season with a torn meniscus per Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank.   Today, it was announced that center Doug Weight will be out for the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum as reported by Katie Strang of Newsday. 

Needless to say, the Islanders are weaker at center - something Dominik focused on in his preview.  The Islanders still have a number of capable, young forwards that the Devils' defense will have to keep in check; such as John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Moulson.  Not to mention their stalwart defenseman, Mark Streit.  But it wouldn't surprise me if Jacques Lemaire instructs the forwards to challenge down the middle over and over to expose the Islanders' now-thin position on the roster.

Of the forwards on New Jersey to focus on, keep your eyes peeled on Ilya Kovalchuk.  His game improved as time went on against Pittsburgh and eventually finished the night defending the 6-skater Penguins, holding the puck in the corner before Sidney Crosby's last-ditch long shot to kill off the game, a goal, two assists, and 7 shots on goal. He was flying throughout that third period; great stuff from #17.  With his strong finish to last night's game, could it be a sign of things to come from the winger? Hopefully, he'll have enough left in the tank to put the Islanders' defense on their heels.

Gulitti and Chere don't have any updates from the Devils as of now.  Last night, Gulitti asked Lemaire whether Yann Danis would get the start tonight and Lemaire didn't really answer the question.  Personally, I think this would be a good game for Danis to start. Brodeur got a lot of work last night, the Devils will play Boston on Monday, and so giving him a night off tonight wouldn't leave him cold for the next game.  Would I be really upset if he doesn't? No.  I would only be upset if the Devils fall flat on their face for a period or so. It is imperative that the Devils not throw away all their good work in Long Island tonight.  If only to finally putting this slump to bed.   

To that end, I'm going to wildly guess that the Devils will go with the same lineup as they did last night except Danis would start and Mark Fraser will be in tonight.  I don't think Anssi Salmela was bad last night, but given rotation for that #6 spot, I'd like to see Fraser be given another chance on the ice to prove himself.  

Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
  Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson
Jay Pandolfo - Dean McAmmond - Rod Pelley

Bryce Salvador - Andy Greene
Colin White - Mike Mottau
Mark Fraser - Martin Skoula

Yann Danis
Martin Brodeur

Again, if it doesn't happen, I wouldn't be upset - worry about the Devils' performance more than anything else.  Steve and I will join in for the GameThread later tonight. If there's any updated news, please link to it in the comments.  Please leave all your thoughts, feelings, complaints, and concerns in the comments here until then. Go Devils!

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