The New Jersey Devils (27-35-14) will face off with the New York Islanders (35-29-12) for their third of four meetings this season. The Isles are still in the hunt for that final wildcard spot in the East while the Devils were officially eliminated about a week ago. They are six points behind Boston with both Tampa Bay and Carolina ahead of them (and the same number of games). Tonight will be a fun game (especially because the Devils only seem to show up for rivalry games) but both games thus far have been fast and chippy, and tonight should be no exception.
New Jersey is 1-1-0 in the season series, their lone win coming in a 3-2 bout at home, and their single loss, a 6-4 rout at the Barclays Centre. The Devils were outshot 42-21 in their first meeting, and got goals from Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Zajac (shorthanded), and Pavel Zacha (a power play game-winning goal). Andrew Ladd and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Isles. Cory Schneider was excellent in net, making 40 saves on 42 shots against (.952 save percentage). Thomas Greiss made 18 saves on 21 shots faced (.857 save %).
They met again the following night in the back end of a home-and-home, back-to-back series. Again, the Devils were outshot but not by much (32-30). Miles Wood scored first (a power play goal) but goals from Ryan Strome (2), Casey Cizikas, and Ladd put New York on top 4-1. Kyle Palmieri and Joe Blandisi (first goal of the season) scored goals to cut the lead to 4-3 but John Tavares and Jason Chimera both scored just a minute into the third to put the Isles up 6-3. Taylor Hall gave the Devils some hope with a PPG (6-4 Isles) but the Devils offense could not find the back of the net after that. Keith Kinkaid had an assist on Hall’s goal, his first career NHL point; he stopped 26 of 32 shots against (.812 save %). Jay Berube made 26 saves on 30 shots, posting an .867 save %.
Kinkaid will get the start in net tonight for the Devils; Cory Schneider will start tomorrow night against Philadelphia. Greiss did start last night against the Flyers and was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots against (.625 save %). Jaroslav Halak 19 saves on 21 shots against in his relief appearance. The Islanders fell by a score of 6-3 despite outshooting the Flyers 41-30; they did allow five goals in the first period.
Michael Cammalleri will return to the lineup and defenseman Michael Kapla will make his official Devils debut tonight. Personally, I’d like to see him paired up with Steven Santini; I think they’d definitely play well and complement each other, and they could be a future D-pairing. Jacob Josefson did skate again but Smith-Pelly has not and likely won’t return with just six games left.
Johnny Boychuk did return to the lineup for New York last night and will remain there. The Isles have dropped three straight games, which has hurt their playoff push. Another loss tonight to the Devils could be what officially eliminates them from playoff contention, especially with more than one team ahead of them.
The Devils are 3/7 on the man advantage in the season series and have a shorthanded goal as well; they are 18th overall at 18.3%. New York sits 26th at 15.0%. They have killed all but one of New York’s four power play opportunities; their penalty kill is 21st at 80.1% while New York sits at 14th at 81.0%. New Jersey has also consistently been slightly better in the faceoff circle and should use that to their advantage tonight. However, they have dropped 16 of their last 18 games, and have lost four straight since their overtime win against the Rangers.
Both teams are desperate for a win; puck drops at 7:30PM.