2/18/17 Game Preview: New York Islanders vs. New Jersey Devils

P.A. Parenteau faces his former team at The Rock when he and the New Jersey Devils (24-23-10) meet their Metropolitan-division rival New York Islanders (26-20-10) for the first of four meetings this season; why this first game is so late, who knows? The Devils will also get to face Stephen Gionta tonight, who spent 11 seasons in the Devils organization. They’ll play each other twice this weekend in a back-to-back, home-and-home series. The Devils are coming off of a 3-0 shutout loss to the Senators and New York defeated their crosstown rival New York Rangers, 4-2. Cory Schneider made the start for New Jersey, stopping 32 of 34 shots faced and posting a .941 save percentage. The Isles were outshot 27-23 but got goals from Anders Lee, Nikolay Kulemin, and Andrew Ladd (2). Thomas Greiss made 25 saves (27 shots faced) and posted a .926 save %.

Schneider will get the start in net for New Jersey tonight. He and Keith Kinkaid will likely split starts this weekend (or Kinkaid will start Tuesday) and Schneider has made the last seven. He’s been phenomenal since the beginning of the new year and is playing the way he needs to if the Devils have any shot at making the playoffs. Michael Cammalleri is a health scratch tonight, which doesn’t come as too much of a surprise considering his level of point production (or lack thereof) in the last few months. Joseph Blandisi and Devante Smith-Pelly (surprise!) will be in the lineup tonight. Griess is is net for New York and they will have the same lineup as Thursday night’s.

Lee leads the Isles with 22 goals on the season; John Tavares has 20 (leads the team in points with 48). Tavares and Josh Bailey have 28 assists on the year. Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique lead the Devils in goals with 15 apiece. Taylor Hall has 24 assists on the season (team leader), and Travis Zajac and Damon Severson are tied for second with 21 each.

The Devils are 4-2-1 since the All-Star Break but have only won two of their last 10 games at home. The Isles are 4-3-1 in their last eight games overall and have lost three of their last four on the road. They’ve played much better since Doug Weight took over Jack Capuano’s job and they are very strong contenders for that final wildcard spot in the East. They are a point behind Toronto, who has 63, and New Jersey has 58 points with four teams ahead of them (Buffalo, Florida, Philadelphia, and New York).

Both teams are pretty evenly matched. They’re similar in terms of power play success (New Jersey has the advantage at 16.3% while New York sits at 15.8%). The Devils power play has been better as of late. The penalty kill is almost even: New Jersey has an 81.2% kill rate, New York is at 81.1%. The Isles do average about 30 shots per game (30.8) and the Devils only average about 27.4 (last in the league). The Isles did only have 23 shots against the Rangers on Thursday so those shot totals don’t mean a whole lot unless you make each shot count.

But I’m going to be honest here, I can throw all of the hockey statistics and numbers in the world at you and none of them matter. The Devils are wildly inconsistent, especially at home, and I’m not sure which Devils team is going to show up tonight. They played fairly well on Thursday against the Senators; the game was scoreless for the most part, and then 1-0 for a while longer. So here’s a question: will the team that shows up tonight look like they actually want to play? And that they actually want to be there? Winning both games against the Islanders this weekend would be huge in terms of confidence boost and playoff standings but do the Devils really have the confidence/skill/offense to catch the rest of the teams for a wildcard spot and somehow stay there? Not really.

Either way, if you are watching (and I probably will be too), puck drops at 7PM.

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