The New Jersey Devils (25-23-10) will play the New York Islanders (26-21-10) for the second time in two days in this back-to-back, home-and-home series with their Metropolitan Division rivals. The Devils won the first meeting last night, 3-2, with goals from Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Zajac, and Pavel Zacha. Andrew Ladd and rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored for New York. The Devils were outshot 42-21. Zajac’s was a shorthanded goal and Zacha’s was a power play goal. Cory Schneider made 40 saves on 42 shots for the Devils (.952 save percentage) and Thomas Greiss made 18 saves on 21 shots (.857 save %).
The Isles have been excellent at home. They have an 11-1-2 record in their last 14 at home, their losses coming to Florida (regulation), Philadelphia (overtime), and Carolina (overtime). However, the Devils have been phenomenal on the road. The Devils are an impressive 8-0-1 in their last nine on the road, their only (overtime) loss coming to Edmonton back on January 11th. They have won seven straight on the road since then and will look to continue that streak tonight in Brooklyn.
You know who else has been phenomenal? Cory Schneider. Listen. He’s the main reason the Devils are still in the playoff hunt. He has a 9-5-3 record in his last 18 games played, a 2.17 goals against average, and a.932 save %. If he starts tonight, it will be his ninth straight; he has a 5-2-1 record in those first eight. If Keith Kinkaid does not start tonight, he will almost certainly start Tuesday against Ottawa.
Michael Cammalleri may or may not be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row tonight. He may continue to sit so that Smith-Pelly, Joseph Blandisi, and Beau Bennett all get playing time. His scratch also sends a message to the rest of the team; if you don’t produce, you’re going to sit and the coaching staff doesn’t care. I don’t see why Coach Hynes would mess with a winning lineup, especially because the team did not have a morning skate this morning.
Being scratched has done wonders for several Devils players this season, including rookie Pavel Zacha. He has six goals and three assists in his last last 13 games. His line with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Noesen has found really good chemistry since Noesen was claimed off of waivers not too long ago. Zajac had a good night all around last night as well, getting on the score sheet with a goal and an assist and winning 61.1% of faceoffs.
The Devils were able to keep John Tavares off of the score sheet last night (Schneider stopped his penalty shot on a Zajac hooking call) but may not be able to do it for a second straight game. He’s also not the only one they need to keep track of. The Isles have seven goal-scorers with more than 10 goals (Devils have six) and five with more than 30 points on the season (Devils also have five).
The Devils will have to play a full 60 minutes if they have any shot at sweeping the weekend series. They held a 3-0 lead in the third period but were unable to hold onto it. The Isles had a ton of good scoring chances, especially on the power play at the end of the game, and almost completed the comeback.
Last night’s game had a playoff atmosphere and tonight’s game will be no different. Both teams are still in the playoff hunt and the Devils are closing the gap on the Isles. With both Florida and Toronto losing in regulation yesterday, the Devils are only three points behind the Leafs for the final wildcard spot in the East (and only two behind New York). If, and that’s a big if, the Devils can beat the Isles on the road tonight, they’ll surpass the Isles in the standings and move one step closer to the playoffs.
Tonight’s game should be another close one; puck drops at 6PM.