The New York Islanders face their last opponent again, though the Isles had the benefit of a couple days between games while the New Jersey Devils had to play yesterday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
Worse for the Devils, they were trounced 5-1 by the Penguins.
They were able to keep most players under 20 minutes of ice time, however, with only Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene and Adam Larsson cresting 20 minutes on the blueline and Ilya Kovalchuk getting 24 minutes (including four minutes of powerplay time).
Still, travel plus back-to-back afternoon games means the Devils are candidates to be worn down today if the Islanders stick to the plan.
Islanders (4-2-1, 6th) at Devils (3-1-3, 7th)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
3 p.m. | MSG+ | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Newark News: In Lou We Trust
That means avoiding long stretches in their own zone like we saw in Thursday's OT win in Newark. It also means not tempting fate by staying out of the box and avoiding putting their PK streak in jeopardy.
Colin McDonald will serve the second game of his two-game suspension, so look for the lineups to be the same.
Neither team has been very impressive at even strength, but throwing the game to special teams invites just the sort of swings in luck that can make a team that was blown out yesterday get soothing vengeance today.
Still, this is the start of a great opportunity for the Islanders: They have six of the next eight at home, sandwiched around two games at the Garden. They face every Atlantic opponent during this stretch.
The Devils are expected to start Johan Hedberg, but with two games off it's not likely the Islanders will return the backup gesture in kind.
The Devils shuffled their lines before yesterday's game, moving Adam Henrique to center Dainius Zubrus and Kovalchuk. Tough to say how much Peter DeBoer will stick with those combos as the entire team played poorly. (Here's In Lou We Trust's scathing recap.) They called up Bobby Butler, Albany's leading scorer, for today's game.
So New Jersey lost its first regulation game, but also its fourth "loss" (including OT/SO) in a row. Which team arrives at the Coliseum today?
- For further reading, Newsday has some on the Isles PK plus other notes.
- John Tavares had a good interview on Sportsnet's Hockey Central.
- Official site: Travis Hamonic on playing through his ankle injury, and Brian Strait on his new contract.
- Rumors of the Rangers moving their AHL affiliate to Bridgeport are frequent and, Howard Saffan asserts, just not true.
Meanwhile, it's Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S., so many will probably miss this game or spend their day betting in other pools. But leave your First Islanders Goal pick for today's game here. (Also, check here for the latest standings.)