Head to Head…..Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
New York Islanders (16-16-3) @ New Jersey Devils (15-11-9)
NEWARK, N. J. – The news just has not stopped for the New York Islanders over the course of the past week. For a franchise attempting to establish a new identity and forge ahead with positivity among its fan base and the entire NHL, the PR battle seems to be full steam ahead. With management making smart decisions and the team in the midst of a playoff chase, fans are excited heading into April for the first time in a long stretch, as the team prepares to play meaningful hockey games with much at stake.
Today, the Islanders announced that hulking Notre Dame forward Anders Lee has signed a 2-year entry level contract and has joined the team for the morning skate in Newark. Lee, 22, stands 6’2, 216 pounds and looks to become an immediate power forward. Almost simultaneously, they announced that last season’s 1st round draft pick, Ryan Strome, has been assigned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and will begin practicing and playing with the team immediately. The future of the Isles is coming fast and strong, and the labor of the rebuild is finally starting to show signs of maturation.
Also announced today was that Joe Finley has been placed on IR to make room on the roster for Lee. Newsday Islanders beat writer Art Staple has more on the contract restrictions of Lee and Strome.
On tap for this evening , the Isles take on the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center with faceoff scheduled for 7pm.
New York trails their metro area rivals by only 4 points with 13 games to play for each team, raising the stakes to tremendously high levels. With the New York Rangers also playing at home against the Winnipeg Jets, a chance exists to also pass big brother in the standings. The teams have already met 4 times this season, tonight’s being the final battle in the famous ‘4 point game’ category. So far, it has been a split, Isles winning 5-4 at the Prudential Center and 5-1 at Nassau Coliseum in their most recent meeting. Devils took 2 games on the road against the Isles, 2-1 and 3-0.
From High In The Lighthouse
The Islanders are looking for a big game tonight out of their first line, which has been struggling as of late, but has tremendous success against New Jersey this season. John Tavares leads the trio with 5-2-7 in the 4 games, including a hat trick, Matt Moulson is 1-4-5 and Brad Boyes 1-3-4. Josh Bailey skated with the team this morning and is going to play, which is great news after taking a shot in the back Saturday against Pittsburgh and crashing head first into the boards. Radek Martinek, with plenty of experience playing against these Devils, will dress in place of Matt Carkner and Lee could possibly see game action as early as tomorrow night when Winnipeg comes to Long Island. Evgeni Nabokov will be in goal, as he has been for this entire season series and 30 of 35 games this season.
Marty is back…..
Too Deep In The Depths
New Jersey is coming off two tough games as they failed to secure two very important points in the race for the NHL’s second season. On Friday, they led the Tampa Bay Lightning with 16 seconds to play before allowing the tying goal then losing in a shootout. They followed on Saturday by again allowing the tying goal in the last minute of regulation, as Shawn Matthias scored for the Florida Panthers before Dmitry Kulikov won it at 1:43 of overtime. The Devils mindset is going to be very interesting to monitor from the start tonight and could be very important in determining the outcome. Ilya Kovalchuk remains out of the lineup, still possibly 3 weeks away, suffering from a shoulder injury. They announced Martin Brodeur would get the start in goal and Peter Harrold will replace Adam Larsson on defense with Danius Zubrus returning from injury after missing 26 games.
Water Puts Out Fire
The Islanders need a strong start tonight and have to attack the Devils down low in the offensive zone. New Jersey’s backline can be extremely prone to turnovers when pressured. The forwards have to step up in support and backcheck, with the Devils getting alot of their opportunities on the counter attack. No surprise that the only change is Martinek, as coach Jack Capuano knows he cannot insert Anders Lee just yet into a game of this magnitude. Radek will provide more mobility than Matt Carkner.
First line needs to have a big game: Matt Moulson has not scored since March 5 and is slumping finding the twine overall, with just 4 goals in his last 21 games. Also, Brad Boyes has looked a little out of sorts lately timing wise with center Tavares.
Garth Snow is still working on an extension for captain Mark Streit and the expectation is if one cannot be reached by Wednesday, he will be in play at the trading deadline. Rumors abound yesterday about a package also involving Frans Nielsen going to Chicago but were quicky rebuffed by Islanders front office personnel. My piece on the Isles potential movement at the deadline and summer plans can be found here.
Isles all time versus New Jersey, 116-76-29
EyesonIsles prediction….Isles 3, Devils 2
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