This weekend the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils meet for the first time this season, in what is their 57th and 58th games of the season, respectively. They’ll make up for lost time by going at it again tomorrow night back in Brooklyn, a cap to the home-and-home that starts tonight in Newark.
Though they’ve taken different routes, both teams are probably about where people expected them before the season: The Islanders are in the thick of the wild card race, though one point out and — in a surprise after the top half of the Metro caught on fire — that bubble chase involves basically one available slot.
The Devils, meanwhile, are 13th in the conference but just four points behind the Islanders. A regulation sweep this weekend would tie them with the Isles. But New Jersey’s underlying numbers are less promising when compared to the Islanders since their coaching change.
If current form for both teams continues, there will be no satanic sweep.
The Isles are coming off the thrilling win over the Rangers. The Devils are coming off a complete letdown 3-0 loss to the Senators. (Sounds too familiar.)
The Islanders, of course, are feeling good and confident about their game. Since Doug Weight took over as interim head coach (9-3-2), they’ve had basically two bad games — okay, one lethargic 3-0 loss to the Senators plus an atrocious period rotting at the core of an okay game against the Leafs — and have seen the results and bounces to reflect that.
But two of those losses have come in their last four games. Dial those four games back a little and you have two concerning losses plus an easy win over the league’s worst team in the Avalanche and victory in the always-easy-to-get-up-for game vs. the rival Rangers.
As some Devils fans see it at All About the Jersey:
This home-and-home series likely defines the season for the Devils, and will help determine if the Devils are sellers. Personally, I’d rather see the Devils lose, as I just don’t see the Devils jumping the other teams in the playoff hunt.
Over the nest 28 hours, we’ll find out whether these two squads are heading toward each other or drifting farther apart.
No lineup changes for the Isles. Thomas Greiss starts in goal, Cal Clutterbuck, Shane Prince and Travis Hamonic remain out with injuries. After a very active game from Scott Mayfield Thursday against the Rangers, he’ll remain in the lineup in favor of the scratched Adam Pelech.
The Devils will start Cory Schneider in goal. In some earth-shaking news, they will scratch Mike Cammalleri, who now experiences that indignity for the first time in a 14-year NHL career.
That leaves their lineup looking like this:
Taylor Hall -- Travis Zajac -- Kyle Palmieri
Beau Bennett -- Adam Henrique -- PA Parenteau
Pavel Zacha -- Jacob Josefson -- Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood -- Joseph Blandisi -- Devante Smith-Pelly
Andy Greene -- Ben Lovejoy
Jon Merrill -- Steven Santini
John Moore -- Damon Severson
Watch the Game!
Coverage is on MSG and MSG+ (Isles feed), plus radio feeds at 970AM - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU and 103.9FM - LI News.
Speaking of the Islanders broadcasts, the TV play-by-play man is suddenly very busy:
At 5:48am, @mrsburkie and I welcomed Liam Brendan Burke into the world. They are happy and healthy and I am in complete awe of both of them. pic.twitter.com/mjhDdbe050— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) February 18, 2017
So Jiggs McDonald will be in the house and behind the mic for the weekend’s games.
Check All About The Jersey for more Devils coverage.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here by game time, which is 7 p.m. EST tonight. (Tomorrow is a 6 p.m. Sunday start in Brooklyn.)