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Game 23 Preview: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders

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The Time: 1:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG (HD); Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (7-13-2) at the New York Islanders (4-12-5)

The Last Devils Game: It was ugly. It was hard to watch. It wasn't a good performance by the team overall.  Yet, the Devils got a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames through the shootout.  My recap of the game is here.

The Last Islanders Game: The New York Islanders managed to take the Columbus Blue Jackets beyond regulation, the second straight game the team did that to their opponent.   Yet, the Isles' woes continued as the Blue Jackets scored in overtime to win 4-3.  Dominik of Lighthouse Hockey actually had some praise for the Isles despite the team losing their fourteenth (!!) straight game in his recap.

The Goal:  There are two words to know about today's game: Trap game.  The Islanders haven't won since October 21.  The organization has fired Scott Gordon and have replaced him with Jack Caupano in the middle of this winless streak, and nothing much has changed. The Isles need to win today to avoid ending the month of November completely winless.  Yet, the Isles took Atlanta and Columbus - two teams who have done better than the Devils this season - to overtime.  Eventually, you figure the Isles will get some breaks and, therefore, a win. 

The Devils need to be incredibly focused to prevent being the team that lost to the Islanders.  That's the goal.  That's how the Devils will be able to get their third straight win.  Focus.  To clarify, their passing has to be worlds better than it was on Wednesday night; the defense needs to remain sharp; and the coaching needs to be aware of what's going on the ice and make reasonable tactical adjustments.  Should they perform as they did on Wednesday night, I fear that the Devils will fall in the trap this afternoon.  

I have a few more thoughts about today's game after the jump.  For the Islanders' side, please visit Lighthouse Hockey.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S.  Today is known as Black Friday for crazy shopping and deals - like what the Devils are doing for tickets purchased today. (Disclosure: The Devils organization told me about this yesterday, I'm passing it on to you because, well, you may be interested being Devils fans and all.)   Either way, counting your blessings is a good thing to do.

As far as I know, the Devils didn't do anything on Thursday.   Therefore, I would prefer that the Devils keep the same lineup together that they had in their last two games.   I want to see whether Wednesday was just a collective bad night for the offense before making any changes in lines to start the game.  Hence, my guess at the Devils' lineup:

Ilya Kovalchuk - Dainius Zubrus - Alexander Vasyunov
Patrik Elias Jason Arnott - Mattias Tedenby
Brian Rolston - Travis Zajac - David Clarkson
Rod Pelley - Adam Mair - Stephen Gionta

Henrik Tallinder - Colin White
  Mark Fayne - Andy Greene
Anton Volchenkov - Matthew Corrente

Johan Hedberg
Mike McKenna

The Islanders, however, did have a practice as reported by Katie Strang of Newsday.  When you drop 14 straight, I suppose there's no reason to take a day off. Strang does a pretty good job of summarizing what's up with the Isles beyond just losing games. They scored 3 goals against Columbus, their power play is awful (Devils fans can sympathize), and the Islanders are continue to suffer from injuries.  Per the Islanders' team page at SBN, their injured list includes Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Jack Hillen (who was skating on Thursday), Andrew McDonald, Milan Jurcina, and from Strang - Mike Mottau.  On top of that, Doug Weight and Trent Hunter are questionable.  That's quite a lot of talent not being available to play.

So who is healthy enough for the Devils fans should be aware of?  Two names come to mind:

2010 - Matt Moulson 21 8 5 13 -8 2 3 0 1 61 13.1
2010 - John Tavares 18 8 4 12 -14 10 4 0 1 53 15.1

Both are tied for the team lead in goals; Matt Moulson leads in points along with defenseman James Wisniewski (2 G, 11 A); and John Tavares is just behind both.   Tavares was the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, thrown into the fire by the Isles, and he doesn't seem destroyed by the experience.  Moulson came out of nowhere last season to put up 30 goals in his first full season of NHL hockey, and he's on pace to hit that mark again.

At 5-on-5 hockey on Wednesday,  the two were together along with P.A. Parenteau according to the head-to-head ice time charts at Time on Ice.  It wouldn't surprise me if Capuano kept the them together today. If so, it wouldn't be the worst idea for the Devils to try and have their top defenders out there when those two are on the ice.  The Devils are the visitors, so they won't have the last change making it a little more difficult.  Again, if the Devils can repeat the defensive performances they had in the last two games, then they should be fine even if a rookie defender is caught out there against Tavares & Moulson (or if the fourth line is out there at all).

I may be oversimplifying things, but the key is for the Devils to keep focused and not look past the Isles to Saturday's game against the Flyers, next week's games, or whatever sweet deals they can get on Black Friday. You and I may do that, it's easy to do so given that they have won any of their last 14 games.  But we're (thankfully) not playing the games.  Here's hoping the Devils do what they need to do to win their third straight game.

The Gamethread will be up later, closer to game time.  In the meantime, please feel free to discuss today's game in the comments.  If you want to post any news updates, then please do so in the comments with a link to the source.  Last and not at all least, thank you for reading.  Let's go Devils.