The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils at the New York Islanders in Brooklyn
The Last Devils & Isles Game: These two took each other on at the Rock on Thursday. Things went south in a hurry with four first period goals against: one power play goal, two shorthanded goals, and an Eric Boulton breakaway goal. The Devils got one back mid-way that flurry from an apparent deflection of a Jon Merrill shot by Rostislav Olesz. In the second period, the home team made it a game as Kevin Poulin got beaten twice in short order from long shots by Merrill and Marek Zidlicky. However, the game went ugly as both teams threw down several times and the Isles gifted power play after power play that the Devils largely wasted. A broken stick helped free a puck for Peter Regin to get a breakaway goal on Scott Wedgewood to make it 3-5, and the Devils never really attacked effectively to fight back. The Devils lost the game. My recap is here and Dominik's recap at Lighthouse Hockey is here.
Tonight is really the Islanders' night. This will be their first game in their future home. It'll be their first appearance at the Barclays Center. I'm sure their intent will be to make the most of their impression for the local fans interested in checking out a hockey game as well as the Isles faithful getting a look at where the team will be in a few years. Therefore, I would expect a rather strong lineup from the Isles. I'm sure the Devils will get to deal with their ace forward John Tavares, the strong shooting of Matt Moulson, the crazy speed of Michael Grabner (Aside: It feels like he always has to have a breakaway against the Devils at some point), and the defensive stylings of Travis Hamonic and Andrew McDonald among others. I highly doubt we're going to see Eric Boulton and Brett Gallant run about fouling and fighting with impunity. Not coincidentally, they didn't play on Thursday. Even if this game was in front of 3,000 people in Nassau, they'd probably be in the lineup anyway just to give them some minutes.
As for the Devils, plenty didn't go well on Thursday night. The power play was a particularly sore spot as the team struggled a lot to gain the zone with possession. They also didn't establish what they'd really want to do, shifting from a standard position-based power play to a sort of a 1-3-1 at times. Regarding the latter, I don't know if they should be shifting formation that much in process. I'd like to see them start to establish some kind of general philosophy on the man advantage. It may make it easier on the coaches to decide who plays what role on that half of special teams, while giving the players something to repeat over and over. The bigger issue is just zone entry on the man advantage. Passing the puck to play a teammate in over the blueline is a better move than dumping it in; yet they got away from that on Thursday night. Even if the teammate is out wide, at least he'll have control. With good support, he can pass it along for some space and allow the team to get set-up. A part of me may want to see that more than a set set-up on a man advantage. Surely, the Devils will not get 18 minutes of power play time to work again. They'll have to show off what they can do differently quickly.
I'm more concerned about that as the turnovers that doomed the Devils on Thursday a fixable. Two came from the power play which could be prevented. Two of the goals came off some accidental turnovers, too. One was an errant clearance by Zidlicky that went off Josh Bailey and went into the net and Gelinas got thwarted by a broken stick. I highly doubt both will happen again anytime soon. Still, I'd like to see the players' puck movement and control to be sharper. I'd like to think that rust played a role in the sloppiness on Thursday. With nearly everyone on the roster having received some action in preseason, it shouldn't be so bad going forward.
It'll also help that most of the rosters should be more and more filled with potential NHL players. Tom Gulitti reported that the Devils made a several cuts on Friday at Fire & Ice. Among them, Reid Boucher's demotion is notable because he played in both preseason games already. I think Albany is where he really belongs; I suppose the coaches saw enough from him. In terms of who will play, Cory Schneider will start and play throughout the game tonight according to Gulitti. As of this writing, the rest of the Devils lineup is unknown. Given that Ryane Clowe and Jaromir Jagr didn't practice on Friday, I doubt they'll be in the lineup tonight. Andrei Loktionov, Jacob Josefson, Rostislav Olesz, Krys Barch, and Eric Gelinas played in both preseason games so far; a night off for either isn't out of the cards either. I would prefer seeing less of Barch already. We'll find out for sure later today. Again, this night means much more to the Islanders than it does to the Devils and it is preseason anyway, so I'm fine with whatever roster they throw out there. I just want to see a better performance, notably on man advantage situations. That would be fine. If they win in the process, then swell.
One last favor: If you're going to the Barclays Center tonight, then would you mind detailing your experience? Perhaps in a FanPost? I'm curious as to what the arena is like for hockey, such as the view, the atmosphere, and so forth. I can get a good one to be put on the front page
What do you want to see out of tonight's game? Possibly more importantly, who do you want to see tonight on either team to have a good performance? Do you think the Devils will be sharper? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on tonight's game in the comments. Thanks for reading.