By Jeff O’Connor
New Jersey Devils (3-0-2) vs. New York Islanders (3-2-1) 7:00 pm Prudential Center, Newark, NJ.
While some fans may feel mixed over the two points the Devils got on their most recent road trip, one thing is for sure tonight; not many people will feel satisfied with just one point. It’s time for NJ to get back on track as they welcome in the Islanders to The Rock for the first time this season.
The Islanders have been a considerable offensive streak of late, scoring 17 goals in their last four games including four against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a win on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh. While the Devils seem to always play close games against the Isles (more so at the Coliseum), they’ve been known to blow the doors off New York every once in a while.
Here are some thoughts/questions from today’s game.
1. Adam Henrique is back in the lineup tonight and will be on the fourth line. Henrique told reporters after this morning’s skate that he’s in the lineup because there’s not that many chances to practice over the next several weeks. Because of this, DeBoer plans to control his minutes. So don’t expect him to be on the top two lines by the weekend. Instead, hope he’s effective enough so that the fourth line can create some offensive chances on occasion.
2. Adam Larsson has returned as well. Thanks to an arm injury to Mark Fayne, Larsson will get his first shot of the year. Devils fans have been shouting for him to be back in the lineup over the last few weeks. While I agree he should be in the lineup, I really don’t think he’s going to make a world of impact. Let’s hope he doesn’t try to be a hero; like he has to do something tremendous to stay in the lineup. If he plays solid both ways, his spot in the lineup won’t be in jeopardy.
3. Another new member of top line? The third newest member of the top line with Zajac and Kovalchuk will be Jacob Josefson. DeBoer has trusted him a lot lately, including a tremendous amount of time on the penalty kill. He has looked very comfortable on the ice, at both ends of the rink. While I like the move in theory, what exactly is his role now? Travis distributes and Kovy normally finishes. We shall see…
4. Know your enemy. The Devils are about to get awfully familiar with their Atlantic Division rivals. Starting tonight, six out of their next seven and eight out of their next 10 will be against their divisional foes. This could very well be a huge swing point of the season that decides whether or not the Devils make the playoffs. Of the eight contests, four will be at home and four on the road. They’ll get the Peguins and Islanders three times and the Rangers and Flyers one time each. They can’t afford any extended slumps in this stretch.
5. Limit the top guns. The Islanders are an extremely top-heavy team. Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and John Tavares have each averaged a point a game. It’s this simple…make someone else beat you. Make a Kyle Okposo, a Brad Boyes or a Frans Nielsen beat you. Don’t get burned by the studs.
My Prediction: Devils 4 Islanders 2 (record picking Devils games to date- 1-0-0)
This game will test the will of the Devils. I see them falling behind early…perhaps by multiple goals. I see it as a replica of what happened in Montreal but this time the Devils pick up their game a little bit quicker and put up three or four goals in a row to close out a victory. Also, it’s time for the Carter-Gionta-Bernier line to break out; expect a goal or two from them tonight. Throw in a goal from a defenseman as well. The Devils are going to break out of this mini-slump in a big way.
Line 1: Jacob Josefson-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk
Line 2: Dainius Zubrus-Patrik Elias-David Clarkson
Line 3: Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier
Line 4: Krys Barch-Adam Henrique-Matt Anderson
Expected Defensive Pairings:
Bryce Salvador-Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene-Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder-Anton Volchenkov
Starting Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
Tweet us your predicted score @DevilsInsiders before the puck drops.