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Game 67 Preview: New Jersey Devils vs New York Islanders

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What Brodeur may be thinking:  "Feels like a night...for <em>winning.</em>" (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
What Brodeur may be thinking: "Feels like a night...for winning." (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
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The Time: 7:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - 660 AM WFAN

The Game: The New Jersey Devils (37-24-5) vs. the New York Islanders (28-29-9)

The Last Devils Game: On Tuesday, the Devils hosted Our Hated Rivals at the Rock for the final time this season. The Devils started off the game very well, when Ilya Kovalchuk split the Rangers defense and beat Henrik Lundqvist on his first shift. The Rangers and Devils were a bit more even, but it was a good first for New Jersey. The second period was mostly Rangers hockey. They pinned the Devils back in their own end, went up 11-1 in shots in the period at about the halfway mark, and tied up the game on a Derek Stepan one-timer. The Devils showed some life late, but Martin Brodeur was the main reason it was at 1-1 after two. The third period turned out to be one of the best for the Devils this season. David Clarkson deflected a Petr Sykora shot early on to put the Devils up 2-1 and about two minutes later, Ryan Carter buried a feed from Jacob Josefson to make it 3-1. The Devils kept attacking for a fourth goal and out-shot the Rangers 11-3. They didn't get the fourth past Lundqvist, but Patrik Elias did get it into an empty net to seal a 4-1 win. My recap of that game is right here.

The Last Devils-Islanders Game: The Devils kicked off a week of three games against the Islanders on the road for a matinee. It wasn't a very good performance by the Devils. Sloppy would be a good word to describe it. I prefer stupid as the Devils went up against a young, unproven goaltender in Anders Nilsson and didn't really challenge him all game long. In contrast, the Islanders pushed the play in their direction, threatened the Devils significantly on several power plays thanks to the Devils' "discipline," and generally made the most of their effort. Alas, only Kyle Okposo scored on a strong individual effort where out-muscled Anton Volchenkov to beat Brodeur low with a shot. The Devils' offensive effort was lackluster enough such that the goal held up to give the Isles a 1-0 victory. My recap of the loss is here and I wasn't happy at all. On the flipside, Dominik was much happier over at Lighthouse Hockey. (Note: The Isles have been idle since this game.)

The Goal: Build on the first and third periods against the Rangers; attack and if successful, then attack some more. I liked how the Devils played in the first period against the Rangers; and I loved that third period. In both periods, the Devils got an early goal and they didn't let up. The Devils kept moving forward looking for more shots and more goals. They didn't pass up good opportunities when they had looks on net. It not only served to help the Devils going forward, but it kept the Rangers from getting a lot of possession in the Devils' end. Over the course of a game, a team will usually have a few really good shifts in the other team's end. The key to avoid having that happen over and over is to at least keep them honest. The Devils went above and beyond that to earn their win over the Rangers. They'll need to repeat some of that against the Islanders to avoid a repeat of Sunday's game and get a result tonight. It's good that the Devils want to carry over the energy from Tuesday's win, but what they really need are shots and offensive intensity.

For the opposition's point of view, please visit Lighthouse Hockey. For some more thoughts about tonight's game, please continue on after the jump.

The Devils just played the Islanders on Sunday. What's more is that the Isles have been idle since then. Therefore, there's not a whole lot of new information to really go over. If you want an overall understanding of what the Isles have been about this season, then I recommend checking out my preview of Sunday's game.

Devils fans do have cause to be concerned despite the Islanders not being all that good looking by most stats this season. The Isles played an excellent game on Sunday. They moved the puck well through the neutral zone and on offense. All five skaters committed in their own zone and pressured the Devils very well to break up passes and plays. The Isles were excellent on the power play and came agonizingly close to scoring. Their top line of John Tavares, P.A. Parenteau, and Matt Moulson were fantastic; with Tavares really bossing the Devils around on defense to 5 shots on net out of 11 shooting attempts. They have every reason to feel good about this game, especially with three days off to rest up and get prepared for this game.

2011-12 - Evgeni Nabokov 35 1964 16 16 1 79 2.41 985 906 .920 2

We may see some changes in the Islanders lineup for this game. The first could be in goal. The Isles played Nilsson on Sunday namely because starter Evgeni Nabokov played the day before against Boston. Since the Isles have been off, Nabokov should be fresh and I suspect he'll be in between the pipes this evening. Nabokov has been pretty good for the Isles this season and he'll be more than ready for what should be a more aggressive attack by the Devils than what the Isles saw on Sunday. That's assuming he starts over Nilsson, which I think will happen.

2011-12 - Michael Grabner 63 15 10 25 -14 12 1 1 2 136 11.0

The second might occur at forward. Speedy winger Michael Grabner was sick the past weekend, so he didn't play. He's back at the Islanders' practice. However, Arthur Staple's column in Newsday on Wednesday noted that with Josh Bailey at wing and the Isles winning two games in a row, he may not immediately comeback into the lineup. The Islanders' official Twitter account posted the Isles' forward lines in Wednesday's practice. Grabner was splitting time with Nino Niederreiter at left wing on the third line. We'll see whether he gets back into the lineup tonight.

The Devils will definitely make a lineup change at forward for this game. Tom Gulitti reported after Wednesday's practice that Alexei Ponikarovsky will definitely return to the lineup. Ponikarovsky suffered a minor MCL sprain, but he got through Wednesday's practice with no issues and so he'll play tonight. This is good news for the team. The return of Ponikarovsky will boost their talent on the third line, it moves Steve Bernier down to the fourth line which means one less goon will play, and the Devils have another forward able to work hard along the boards against the opposition's depth. I look forward to see what Ponikarovsky will do with Josefson and David Clarkson tonight.

Other than that, I doubt we'll see any other changes. Gulitti also reported that Zach Parise felt fine after the Rangers game, Brad Mills was sent back down to Albany after late Tuesday call-up, and Martin Brodeur will start this game. Of course, Brodeur's going to start. He certainly wasn't the problem against the Isles on Sunday and he was more than just fine against the Rangers on Tuesday. I don't see why Brodeur shouldn't start this game. I would expect a Moose sighting on Saturday since the weekend is a back-to-back-set.

Of the Devils forwards, I'm particularly interested to see how Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Carter will play tonight. Those two were great against the Rangers and are at opposite ends in terms of roles. Kovalchuk broke a nine-game goalless streak against the Rangers and was an offensive force for most of the night with 8 shots on net out of 10 attempts. Hopefully, snapping that goalless streak will lead to some more goals more often by Kovalchuk. Even if he doesn't, we can be confident that he'll get several shots on net, he'll make several good passes going forward, and he'll command your attention because that's what he does. Carter is a fourth liner who played real well when he got time away from the Duo of Goon Sadness. He had 4 shots on net, he helped push the play forward, and he scored his first goal since November 19. I'm interested in seeing how he does after a big night. Will he go back to just being a body on the ice? Or will he excel again when he gets some time away from goons? I don't expect him to make a huge impact, but I don't think he'll be totally quiet either.

As one final thought and plea to the Devils, please don't hand the Islanders five power plays - and especially not a 5-on-3. Four of the five power plays came from fouls the Devils really should have avoided. While the Devils escaped without giving up a PPG, they came perilously close. I doubt that they'll be so lucky again. As strong as the Devils' PK has been this season, I think it would be better if they avoided the fouls to begin with just to avoid the Isles from taking full advantage of an extra man, much less taking advantage multiple times.

Again, with both teams playing each other on Sunday and the Isles having no games since then, there's not a whole lot more to say. So I leave it to you. How do you think the Devils will play tonight? What do you expect out of the Islanders? Which Devil player are you most looking forward to see perform tonight? Can the Devils build on the win over Rangers, or will they sag against a fresher opponent? Will the Devils get some revenge and get a win tonight? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thank you for reading.