Gameday: Devils at Islanders (2/16/13)

Islanders-Devils2

The Devils and Islanders get familiar with each other again out on the Island.

Who:  New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Nassau Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
Media: TV – MSG (Channel listings); RadioWFAN (660 AM or 101.9 FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • New Jersey has won six of its last seven games and is 15-2-3 in its last 20 regular season contests dating back to 2011-12.
  • Tonight’s game closes out the team’s third of ten sets of back-to-back games. The Devils are 2-1-0 in first games and 2-0-0 in second games when playing on consecutive dates.
  • Johan Hedberg is 8-0-2 in his last 10 decisions. He made 22 saves and shut out the Islanders the last time the teams met on February 3. Hedberg is 4-1-0 with two shutouts and a 0.81 goals-against average vs. the Islanders as a Devil.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk recorded three assists last night to extend his point scoring streak to a season-high five games (3g-6a-9pts). He is now just one point away from 400 in his NHL career (411g-388a-799pts).
  • Patrik Elias recorded 1g-2a yesterday and now leads the club with 18 points on the season. Elias has 2g-9a-11pts in his last six games & his 14 assists overall are tied for third (E. Malkin) in the NHL.
  • David Clarkson’s game-winner last night was his team-leading 10th goal of the season. His 10 goals/three game-winning goals are tied for third in the league.
  • Alexei Ponikarovsky became the 23rd player to be re-acquired and play for the Devils last night and is the first to score a goal in his first game of both stints with the team.
  • Steve Bernier has scored three of his four goals this season vs. the Isles.
  • The Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Bernier line has 4g-5a-9pts in three games vs. the Islanders this season.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                              Defense                                                      Goalie
Ponikarovsky-Zajac-Kovalchuk                           Salvador-Zidlicky                                              Brodeur
Elias-Henrique-Clarkson                                    Greene-Larsson
Carter-Gionta-Bernier                                        Volchenkov-Tallinder
Barch-Josefson-Butler

Inactives: Harrold, Fayne, Matteau

Fast friends: Tonight’s game marks the fourth time the Devils and Islanders have played this season, a startling number considering the Devils will have played 15 games after tonight. While the Devils and Isles are certainly not strangers, that’s a remarkable amount of early season familiarity. How will that effect play? Well, to be blunt, there’s not many surprises between the two teams. Think of it the same way you would halfway through a seven-game playoff series. You know what you are, you know what they are and you have a pretty good idea how the game will play out. The home-ice advantage gives the Islanders a slight advantage, since Jack Capuano gets last change and can deploy Matt Moulson or John Tavares in the most advantageous situations possible. Otherwise, I’m expecting a game similar to the first three — very tight, probably a one-goal game decided by special teams and fueled by which team makes the least mental errors.

Don’t give them the power: As mentioned above, special teams will be huge tonight. In fact, I’m betting the game-winning goal will be scored on the power play. In the Devils’ two wins over the Islanders, New Jersey has corralled the Isles’ power play to just one score. In the lone game the Isles won, they completely controlled the game via their power play. The reason for that is more space for the Isles’ skill players, specifically Tavares. The Devils have done an excellent job of bottling up Tavares at even strength, but on the power play he’s been almost unstoppable. Tonight, the Devils must make sure they always have an eye on Tavares and don’t allow him space in the neutral zone. Tavares isn’t fast, but he is quick and he is incredibly strong on his feet. Once he has a step on you, he’s almost impossible to knock off the puck — and he almost always has space and the puck when he’s on the power play.

Changes: Henrik Tallinder is back tonight, while Mark Fayne takes a seat. Fayne has struggled the last two games after the death of his grandmother, so it’s probably a good idea to give him a night to watch the game from the press box. As for Tallinder, his insertion adds a nice burst of offense to the Devils’ defensive corps. No one will confuse him with Erik Karlsson, but Tallinder is a solid enough offensive player where the Devils suddenly have a threat on all three pairs. I have to wonder just how short the string will be, but as a veteran I imagine Tallinder won’t allow the threat of another lengthy layoff to change the way he plays.