BY DAVE TURNER
New Jersey Devils (3-1-3) at New York Islanders (4-2-1) 3:00 pm Nassau Coliseum , Uniondale, New York
These familiar foes meet once again. With each team winning a 1-goal game against each other thus far, we can expect another good contest between these two division rivals.
While the Islanders are trending up, winners of their last two games, New Jersey has lost four in a row, with the first three being in overtime.
With the Atlantic Division already looking like a log-jam, getting divisional points is huge. The Devils must stop the bleeding after yesterday’s putrid showing in Pittsburgh. They also can’t get caught looking ahead to the Rangers on Tuesday. This is a very big early season tilt.
Here are some thoughts and questions for today’s game.
1. Where has all the defense gone? The Devils have allowed 10 goals in the past two games. If you do that, you are not going to win many hockey games at all. They need to cut down on turnovers and work to limit second-chance shots. You would think that after two straight performances like the defense showed, that they would have a chip on their shoulder coming in to this one.
2. Can Moose be great again? Johan Hedberg was excellent in his first start of the year and judging by the way the defense has played, coupled with the Islanders offensive talent and you have to think that Moose will be busy today. Really, the biggest thing is for him to keep New Jersey in the game and limit any soft goals.
3. The Forecheck is key: You saw the Carter-Gionta-Bernier line have it’s best game of the season against the Islanders and that should continue today. The aggressive, physical forechecking ability of that line is tough for the small Islanders to defend. This line needs to produce at least one goal today.
4. The Bobby Butler factor: The young right winger has been called up from Albany to play in today’s game. He might be the extra offense that the Devils are so desperately needing. He has shown some ability to score and I really like him on a line with Jacob Josefson, who has been doing so many little things well.
5. Make no mistake, this is a big game. Though they got points in three of them, four losses in a row is still four losses. With this 48-game season, you can’t expect to contend if you suffer any extended losing streaks. With the Rangers, Lightning and Penguins twice next week, it doesn’t get any easier. The Devils need to regain their confidence with a win and then turn their focus to the big showdown with the Rangers.
Prediction: Devils 4 Islanders 2
The Islanders are playing well and they definitely pose a threat with their explosive offense, but I think the Devils are ready for it. Look for them to slow the game down and grind it out with some extended puck possession. Ilya Kovalchuk is ready to break out and with Adam Henrique getting closer to full speed, he should be able to add some offense as well.
New Jersey needs this one badly and I think they’ll find a way to get it done.