By Jeff O’Connor
New Jersey Devils (9-2-3) at New York Islanders (5-7-1) 7:00 pm Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
Again? Crazy to think but this will be the fourth time the Devils have played the Isles in fifteen games. Just from games over the last three years, they’re normally tight, well-played contests. The Devils are 2-0-1 against the Isles this season with both of their wins coming out on Long Island. They have allowed just one goal in the two games they have played there.
In fact, the last time on LI, it was Johan Hedberg who got the start and the shutout, as the Devs won 3-0 thanks to a few goals from Steve Bernier. The Devils are sitting pretty atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference while the Islanders are in 13th and four points out of a playoff spot. They got off to a hot start, but up until Thursday’s win vs. the Rangers, they had lost five straight games.
Here are some questions/thoughts/etc. for tonight’s contest:
1) Tallinder in, Fayne out. UGH…if you’ve followed us for any sort of time, you know I am not a big fan of Henrik Tallinder. However, I like the move by Pete DeBoer tonight. Mark Fayne has struggled the last two games. I was VERY surprised that he played on Tuesday night, just hours after his grandmother passed away. I thought for sure he would skip the game. Instead he played and, unfortantely, did not perform well. On Friday, he was bad again. Let him catch a mental break tonight and maybe Tallinder responds after essentially being punished for his bad play.
2) Can Moose keep it up? He can’t keep up this ridiculous rate all year…can he? I think he’ll be sharp because I really can’t ever recall Moose having a BAD game. Sure he might give up 2 or 3 goals in a game, but I can’t think of a game in the last few years where he got just absolutely bombed. Don’t expect a shutout, but he should be good enough to give them a great shot to win the game.
3) The Isles PP. We know it’s really, really good. Yes, the Devils went 7-for-7 on the PK in their last game, but let’s hope they don’t tempt the hockey gods. They still had a 3-for-4 night against the Devils back in late January when they won 5-4 in OT in Newark. Limit the penalties. We saw how big it was last night in the second and third period.
4) The ups and downs of the other defenders. My goodness, how good have Andy Greene and Adam Larsson been? Last night they were a combined +7 with an assist in 42:48 logged. How far has Anton Volchenkov fallen off? He played only 15:11 in 19 shifts last night. Let’s hope he picks it up.
5) Like Bryzgalov, test Nabokov. He’s not that good. He’s allowed three goals in each of his last four games. The Devils just can’t get discouraged early on. Last night, the Devils maybe should have had more than one goal in the first period. They stuck with the gameplan and tallied three more on Bryz before the night ended.
Prediction: Devils 3 Islanders 2 OT
I don’t fret about anything in this game in terms of matchup. The one thing that concerns me is how much last night’s huge comeback took out of their tank. Will there be enough in them tonight to squeak out two points tonight. I’m less concerned with their crispness of play tonight; just get the two points by any means necessary. A fair amount of the time, rivalry and divisional games are not very graceful contests.
I don’t see the Devils trailing in this one. I think they’ll trade a couple of goals over the first 60 minutes but perhaps they’ll get a key power play in overtime and capitalize on it.
Should be another fun and intense matchup tonight…Let’s Go Devils!!
EXPECTED LINES AND D PAIRINGS