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Preview: New York Islanders vs. New Jersey Devils, with Playoff Stakes

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Roster-wise, it's a busy, busy time for the NHL and the New York Islanders, but the Isles also have two more games to play before the trade deadline.

Crash the net.
Crash the net.
USA TODAY Sports

Last time the Islanders and Devils met, the Devils were 9-2-3 at the top of the East and it felt like the Isles were playing them every week in this lockout-shortened season.

Now a month and a half later, they hold their fifth and final meeting with the East's seventh and eighth seeds in play for both sides.

Njd-tailslim_medium Nyi-yslim_medium
Devils (15-11-9, 7th/E) vs. Islanders (16-16-3, t-8th)
[
free advertising wouldn't be prudent] Center
7 p.m. EST | MSG+/2 (
twice!) Audio: NHL - WRHU
Illin' w/o Ilya:
In Lou We Trust

As we've seen, the Islanders powerplay is a key attribute that has helped position them for a shot at the postseason this late in the game -- and its 7-for-21 performance has certainly helped in their 2-2-0 record against the Devils.

Yet it's struggled lately, a topic we went into over the weekend. It also came up in coach Jack Capuano's morning scrum [full audio here]:

On the powerplay and it's recent misses: "We talked about it. It was too calculated. Really uncharacteristic of [that unit]," and he spoke of the one-timer aspect as well.

On Anders Lee: "He's going to play [not tonight though]. He wouldn't be here if we didn't have plans for him."

On the goalie schedule: "No set plan [rotation] in place. ... [just] talk to the goalie coach after each game."

Regarding the powerplay, I'm in agreement with the coach here -- and argued as much in the powerplay post: The personnel is fine and has worked to make them one of the top units in the league. But the approach lately has reverted to stasis and predictability, something that can and should be addressed.

The Islanders have more notes -- including reactions from Anders Lee -- in their morning skate post.

Lineup Notes
  • Obviously Lee isn't debuting tonight. They want to get him oriented first. Along with that announcement, Joe Finley is on IR.
  • Josh Bailey is good to go after leaving the Pittsburgh game on Chris Kunitz's check from behind.
  • Evgeni Nabokov starts. Radek Martinek is in for Matt Carkner.
  • For the Devils, Dainius Zubrus returns to the lineup for the first time since wrist surgery in February.
  • The Devils also have Matt D'Agostini in the fold, a nice depth winger they picked up for change from the Blues while the Blues carry three goaltenders on their roster.
  • And most importantly, the Devils are without Ilya Kovalchuk.

No need to say it, but it's obviously a big game for both sides. For Isles fans, you want them to keep at least two attainable targets in their playoff push in the form of the Atlantic rival Devils and Rangers. A regulation win tonight pulls the Devils to just two points away; a loss the other way gives them plenty of breathing room.

And don't look in the rearview mirror, where three teams are within two points of the Isles and Carolina has two games in hand.

The top line has struggled to produce at even strength lately, and you know the Devils will be focused on them. Tonight would be a lovely night for the other lines to win their matchups. And then there's workhorse Nabby. He kept the Isles in it during the first period of the last meeting, enabling the Isles to pull away later with a 5-1 win. No softies tonight, please.

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