UNIONDALE, N. Y.–Both the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils arrive this evening at the Nassau Coliseum fresh off tough victories, hoping to continue the energy garnered from their respective games and gain an edge and two points.
The New Jersey Devils are doing what most solid teams do and that’s finding ways to win amid the most unlikely of situations, as last night’s come-from-behind victory from a relentless Philadelphia Flyers squad proves.
The Devils found themselves down 3-1 by the middle of the second period, with goals by Claude Giroux and Mike Knuble. The lead, however, would only last another half period, as the Devils Steve Bernier and David Clarkson broke the Flyers’s back and ran away with a most-needed W.
The Islanders, on the other hand, faced a talented but the nevertheless, disorganized New York Rangers team (especially on their Power Play) at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. And while down two goals, the Isles showed some spirit and team poise for a change and managed to steal two much needed points in an overtime shootout.
If the Islanders are to be taken seriously this and any other season, then they must defeat the teams ‘destined’ to beat them. For the Islanders are once again relegated to the category of an ‘easy win’ or ‘soft team’ due in large part and most certainly warranted by the absolute dreadful play these last two weeks. Tonight is an opportunity for them to continue on their road to redemption.
The Devils have proven to be the most difficult of adversaries this season, be it their goaltending, or their patented stingy neutral/defensive zone play. John Tavares and his cohorts have found it a trying exercise these past few seasons to score on either netminder, and tonight should be no exception.
Presumably, the Devils should be tired after coming off virtual back-to-back-to-back games, but as their record indicates, there’s no letting up in Jersey.
The Islanders bring the 6th best Power Play and 4th best Penalty Killing units in hockey, whereas the Devils boast the 5th best Goals Against average and in full command of their division and conference.
Nothing short of perfection/precision will beat this Devils team tonight, and the Islanders haven’t had much in the way of either in recent days, sans the second period and in overtime against the Rangers this past week.
Expect to see:
- the Islanders make their physical presence known early on: there will be a fight or two before the end of the first, says I
- the Islanders to take tons of shots on net in an attempt to capitalize on rebounds, flooding the Devils’s crease , and feasting upon an already physically taxed defense
- the Islanders double-team Patrik Elias who brings 18 points to the table: and thus, the opportunity for the Devs to pounce on some odd-man rushes
- the Devils and Johan Hedberg to be as parsimonious as ever, clogging up lanes and being as patient and stout as the Buffalo Sabres were over a week ago against these same Isles; outshooting a team doesn’t necessarily translate into wins. (The Flyers may most certainly attest to that fact, as well.)
The Islanders must avoid the early goal-against so that they can wear down the Devils against the boards and in the offensive zone. But most importantly, the Isles must force Jersey to skate more, take risky chances and thus, make the mistakes the Isles’s hope to scoop up and score upon.
Here’s to hoping that the Islanders can muster a two-game winning streak.
Follow Rich Diaz @eyesonisles