The Devils were both stymied and stymied themselves last time out against the Islanders in a 1-0 loss at the Coliseum. They then got up and got even against the more bitter rival Rangers. Now comes time for part two of the Isles-Devils trilogy, where the Devils say they're determined to handle things differently.
Islanders (28-29-9, 13th/E) @ Devils (36-23-5, 5th/E)
7 p.m. | MSG+/2 (twice the plus!) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
The [geological metaphor for a stable company] Center
Sixth Seed Occupants: In Lou We Trust
Update: Michael Grabner, who missed the weekend games with the flu, is a scratch tonight in the "don't change a winning lineup even if it won by a tenuous thread" theory. I'd say this reduces the Islanders' chances of winning, but I'm in eval mode anyway -- so if the struggling rookie Nino Niederreiter gets some more looks with more offensive players, then at least there's that. Evgeni Nabokov indeed starts.
Back to the original "got to do better" theme for the Devils:
From Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice:
"We were only able to get on the forecheck like 20-something times where against Washington we were able to get on the forecheck 50 times. That starts with coming out of your own zone and making clean plays. We’re a forechecking team, we’re a pressure team and we weren’t able to do any of that when we played against them on Long Island."
"We need to come in with the same energy and the same focus and the same effort [as the Rangers game]," center Jacob Josefson said. "The Islanders are a really good team and they’ve been playing really well lately and we need the same kind of effort to beat them tomorrow."
Dave Hutchinson at the Star-Ledger has more along that line, with reporters' quotebooks being filled with comments about coming out and playing the Devils' game. Ilya Kovalchuk talked of extra motivation and asserting their style of play in front of the home crowd, while Patrik Elias threw a bone the Islanders' way:
"We have to give them credit,'' center Patrik Elias said. "They have skilled guys. They all move well. They controlled the puck. We worked hard and tried to battle back in the third period but they held and the goalie did a good job keeping the pucks and not allowing too many rebounds.''
Finally, Islanders coach Jack Capuano on how to defend the Devils:
"They have the ability to puck protect so well. You're going to have to do a good job blocking pucks becuase they are going to have puck possession. They are going to hem you in and they are going to have extended zone time. we have to make sure we play the interior and branch out and block lanes."
This three-game series against the Devils is the height of oddity in a regular season schedule -- apparently it's never happened before in the club's 40-year history. But it does afford us a chance to look at how the coaches and players adjust to seeing the same opponent multiple times. Given yesterday's topic on coaching and how we gather anything objective about NHL coaches, it might give us some timely insight into the Isles staff.
Which, incidentally, is the topic of this Three Minute Island bit on our new YouTube channel with SB Nation (I should really stop letting the screenshots on these be dumb shots of my dumb head in dumb expressions. Sorry.):
From the Head To Head (that's the H2H link we do in every game recap) data made possible by Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice site, you can see I actually undersold how much Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic faced the Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique line last game. It was more like 13 minutes at even strength alone.
How much of that matchup will the Isles be able to replicate tonight?
Two Unrelated Thoughts: On Slashes, and Goalies
If I'm P.A. Parenteau, I'm sneaking in a good, hard retaliatory slash on the hand, wrist or forearm of Ilya Kovalchuk tonight. Of course if I'm P.A. Parenteau, I'm also probably picking up a penalty for it. But Kovy's unpenalized slash was -- though likely not malicious -- certainly careless enough to warrant a response. Ah, series hockey.
Goalies: The Isles play three in four here. I'd use Evgeni Nabokov tonight, Anders Nilsson again on Saturday (depending on tonight's outcome) and then return to Nabby for the Rangers on Sunday. Either way, Nilsson should get another start somewhere here.
- The official site with some interesting thoughts from all three members of the BUN line (name not formally approved) on their approach. Bailey: "Fransie’s the key. His defensive ability matches his offensive ability."
- Newsday with John Tavares on hard work over the summer preparing for a long season here.
- The (simulated) chances this Islanders team will make the playoffs are ... holding steady at 0.8%!
- Vote for the Bobby Nystrom Award.
- Minor Bridgeport scuttlebutt from Fornabaio.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game in this thread. The season leaders are also posted there (well, the top eight; you have to dig into the last FIG thread for the full leaderboard). Capt Dallas and PGI are neck and neck at the top, with several in shooting distance. (And not Brian Rolston shooting distance, either.)