Just 14 games in? Well, yeah, but we'll see if the next three quarters of the season are a problem for the New Jersey Devils. Right now though, no matter what happens tonight, the Devils will still wake up tomorrow retaining first place in the Eastern Conference.
In Lou We Trust has a few navel-gazing posts searching for signs of underlying cracks to temper excitement: surprisingly solid defense here, a look at zone starts there. They've kept shots down, and we've seen in three (already) previous meetings that their structure is air-tight under Peter DeBoer.
That post on the Devils defense noted some optimism seeing Mark Fayne paired with captain Bryce Salvador for the tough matchups, but Fayne is oout of the lineup tonight in favor of Henrik Tallinder.
Also in the lineup is Johan Hedberg, who over the last three seasons has played four games at Nassau Coliseum, giving up three goals total and going 3-1.
In the opposite crease, Evgeni Nabokov starts again.
Eric Boulton sits for the first time in Isles-Devils encounters this year as David Ullstrom re-enters the lineup. Ullström will skate on a line with Keith Aucoin and Michael Grabner.
Ullstrom on his status, via the Isles at the morning skate:
"I'm happy to be back playing. Obviously, it's frustrating to sit on the side, but you've got to do what you've got to do and stay on top of your game and learn something from it. I think I did that, and I'm looking forward to playing a good game tonight."
"Our line started out doing real well earlier this season, and we got away from some things. We've got to go back to making smart, simple plays. That is going to make us successful."
Quotes are quotes, but that would lend further fodder to the theory that Ullstrom has done a few non-simple things the staff didn't like, resulting in reduced playing time recently.
Anyway, that lone change means the top six remains the same from last game, and the "energy" line that got the big early second-period goal against the Rangers remains intact:
Moulson - Tavares - Boyes
Bailey - Nielsen - Okposo
Grabner - Aucoin - Ullstrom
Martin - Cizikas - McDonald
MacDonald - Hamonic
Visnovsky - Strait
Last meeting, we had a game, a good game, before an inexplicable penalty call on Brian Strait late in the game paved the way for the Devils winning goal on the ensuing powerplay. The Islanders had blown a treasure of powerplay opportunities before that though, so the loss was practically just and the Isles didn't respond well to that change of fortune.
That game may have been where the Isles powerplay looked its worst of the season so far. It's recovered since. Including that 0-for-7 game, it's been 4-for-15 against the Devils thus far this season.
This is already the fourth of five meetings this season. (Yay lockout!) With a win, the Isles would pull to .500 (shootout-aided) against the three Atlantic Division opponents they've met thus far. With a loss, they'd let New Jersey create more separation, like the money is free.
Around the League:
- As discussed in comments the other day, really good piece: Islanders G Rick DiPietro isn't giving up - ESPN
- Nice look at how the Pens lost three guys to waivers or draft pick trades this season, including Strait.
- Zamboni fun: Guest Post: Confessions of a Zamboni operator | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports
- About last night: Stars vs. Canucks: Three fights in three seconds - SBNation.com