Game 23 Preview: No Letdown Against The Lowly Isles

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The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (7-13-2) face off against the New York Islanders (4-12-5) at Nassau Coliseum. It’s the first of six meetings between the two teams this season.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Calgary Flames, 2-1, in a shootout Wednesday night at the Rock. David Clarkson deflected a puck past Henrik Karlsson to give the Devils’ a 1-0 lead. New Jersey wouldn’t hold it, as Rene Bourque tied the game, 1-1, in the third period. Ilya Kovalchuk tallied the only goal in the shootout to lead the Devils to victory. Johan Hedberg stopped 25 shots for the win.

The Last Islanders Game: The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Islanders, 4-3, Wednesday night on Long Island. The teams traded leads throughout two periods, and ended the middle frame tied, 3-3. Jakub Voracek played hero in overtime, scoring the game-winner at 2:31 of the period. The loss sent the Isles to their 14th straight loss.

The Last Devils – Islanders Game: The Devils and Isles faced off six times last season, with New Jersey winning the season series, 4-2-0. The Devils pounded the Islanders, 7-1, in their final meeting of the season to win the Atlantic Division.

Dainius ZubrusDean McAmmond and Zach Parise scored within a span of 4:54 to put the Devils ahead, 3-0, in the first period. Zubrus opened the scoring, giving the Devils a lead at 10:54 of the first period. Parise increased the lead to 2-0 at 14:18 of the period with an even-strength tally. McAmmond finished the first period scoring, extending the lead to 3-1 with an even-strength goal.

The Devils stretched the lead to 5-0 in the second period. Patrik Elias scored on the man-advantage at 11:16 of the second, increasing the lead to 4-0. Brian Rolston would answer with a powerplay tally, putting the Devils ahead, 5-0, at 19:11 of the period.

New Jersey continued the scoring in the third period. Kovalchuk continued the rout, netting an even-strength goal at 8:47 to increase the lead to 6-0. Matt Moulson ended the shutout, scoring a powerplay goal at 13:10 of the period to put the Islanders on the board. Elias capped the scoring, netting his second goal at 18:24 of the period.

Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils finally won two games in a row against the Flames, marking the first time this season the team won consecutive games. Now they head to Long Island, where the team will look to continue the good times.

It finally feels like the Devils have something going. The second line looks awesome, the defensive play improved, and Hedberg gives the Devils a solid option in net. The two games showed a marked improvement in all aspects of the Devils play. The Isles provide the opportunity to continue the recent success. Losers of 14 straight, the Islanders are clearly struggling. But it’s not a lack of effort that cost the team wins. Some bad breaks and bad luck have largely driven their skid. Therefore, the Devils can’t sleep on their Atlantic Division rivals.

New Jersey needs to come out with pressure from the drop of the puck. They didn’t effectively pressure Calgary, and while they still won, the Devils didn’t create many scoring chances. The Isles will come into this game hungry and firing on all cylinders. Pressuring in all three zones will slow their game and could discourage the Isles from taking chances. That’ll help the Devils take control of the game.

New Jersey also needs to improve on their offensive play. During Wednesday’s game, the team failed to connect on their passes and looked sloppy through the neutral zone. They continually struggled to set up the offense, which stopped the team from setting up many great scoring chances. That inability forced the shootout and allowed Calgary to hang around the entire game. With a struggling team, the Devils need to take advantage early. Offensive pressure in the Isles zone play could break down, leading to some early scoring chances for the Devils.

Gametime is 1 p.m., and you can check all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN 660 AM. Here are the projected starting lineups:

forwards
Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Alexander Vasyunov
 Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby
Brian Rolston – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson
Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
 defenseman
Colin White – Henrik Tallinder
Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov
Mark Fayne – Olivier Magnan
netminder
Johan Hedberg
Mike McKenna 

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