The New Jersey Devils are four standings points and at least three teams out of a playoff spot. They visit Long Island tonight in hopes of a "gotta have 'em" two points against a New York Islanders team that is 11-18-8 on home ice.
The Devils are also 0-9 in the shootout this year, which is the kind of bad luck in the NHL's breakaway coin flip that can wreck a season. (Of course, they have nine OT wins, so don't pity their luck too much. They are 20-9-14 in one-goal games.)
Will the suddenly "road warrior" Islanders manage a win at home again? Will the Devils' shootout luck turn? Will Anders Nilsson let up fewer than three goals? Or will the Devils exceed their 2.42 goals/game average?
That, and a lineup half filled with rookies, is why we watch.
As noted, Anders Nilsson gets the start, opposite Cory Schneider. Nilsson appeared for mop-up duty in the third period of these teams' last meeting, another home ice encounter one month ago that became a disastrous afternoon 6-1 loss.
The Islanders lineup otherwise remains the same, which means chock-full of rookie promotions and injury fill-ins, with John Persson getting his second NHL game and joining fellow green recruits like Mike Halmo, Johan Sundstrom and Kevin Czuczman, as well as slightly more experienced Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Matt Donovan, Calvin de Haan and Brock Nelson.
Tom Gulliti at Fire & Ice has the Devils' plans, with a few changes in anticipation of a "physical" game with the Islanders:
The line combinations have been shuffled a little this morning. Tuomo Ruutu is back at left wing on the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. Dainius Zubrus has been shifted to center on the third line between Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder. Steve Bernier, who has been a healthy scratch for three of the last four games, is back on the fourth line with Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta.
Ooh, the fourth line encounters should be fun.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight over here.
The updated leaderboard has Mrs. Mike in MI leaping over her weaker half, which is cool (sorry, Mike in MI):
39 - martylnd
29 - DoctorOsty
26 - zack779
24 - Isle in Dixie
23 - mrs. mike in mi
22 - Torgo
21 - mike in mi