This game might as well be presented by John Cena. If you’re not the Rock, the game is basically saying, "You can’t see me." Unless the New Jersey Devils do the fans a solid and stream it like the Isles’ website did on Monday.
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-3-0) at the New York Islanders (3-3-0; SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey)
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: No, this isn’t being aired. Go to the Rock, I guess. (shrug) Or hope the Devils’ (or Isles’?) site has a legal stream?
The Last Devils Game: They played the Islanders in Barclays on Monday night. Either you were there, you followed along online through a boxscore or social media, or you saw the Islanders stream the game on their website. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have known this was a game. Anyway, the Isles struck first when Colin Markinson tipped a long shot by Johnny Boychuk in the first period. The Devils would respond with a quick two goals. Legitimate offensive pressure yielded Jacob Josefson getting denied by Thomas Greiss on his doorstep. Reid Boucher followed up by roofing that rebound to make it 1-1. After the team killed his holding minor, Miles Wood unleashed a shot from the left side off a rush that beat Greiss to the post and in. It was 2-1. Andrew Ladd would respond later in the second period when he decided to take a shot himself in a 2-on-2 rush. That shot was true and it beat Cory Schneider to make it 2-2. In the third period, two rebounds would ultimately do in the Devils. Stephen Gionta swooped in for one to beat Schneider on his right flank. Minutes later, Matt Barzal was free in front to jam in another loose puck to make it 2-4. The Devils would get some hope when Devante Smith-Pelly put in a rebound off a Sergey Kalinin shot before Ryan Strome put him down to the ice. A late power play provided further hope, but a fourth goal scored was not to be. The Isles won, 3-4. My recap of the loss is here. For the other side, here’s Dan Saraceni’s recap at Lighthouse Hockey.
The Last Islanders Game: The Islanders took on the Rangers last night. They also brought the house on them. Antti Raanta got a lot of work in this one as the Islanders out-shot the Rangers 10-5 in the first period and 15-6 in the second. Raanta also did a lot of work to stop all of those shots. As luck would have it, it wasn’t on the Islanders’ side at first. Chris Kreider was credited with the game’s first goal when he tipped a shot by Marc Staal past J-F Berube. The Islanders would tie it up before the end of the second thanks to a more fortunate bounce: a shot by Cal Clutterbuck missing, rebounding the boards, and off a skate to beat Raanta. In the third period, the shots were less lopsided and further goals would come. Clutterbuck made it a brace with a spinorama to convert a power play. Nicklas Jensen finished a play to tie it up with about nine minutes left in regulation. The tie stood through regulation so the Isles and Rangers went to overtime. Nearly the entire five minute period was taken. But the shootout was averted with a goal by Josh Bailey. Check out Lighthouse Hockey for a recap of this one.
More Transactions: The Devils had called up four players ahead of Monday’s game: Karl Stollery, Vojtech Mozik, Blake Coleman, and Blake Pietila. Only Stollery did not play on Monday. The team had another player already clear waivers without being demoted in Brandon Gormley, who also played against the Isles. All five plus Rod Pelley are all now with Albany, as confirmed by Andrew Gross in this Tuesday post at Fire & Ice. Only Pelley wasn’t cut or planned to be cut previously and he never had a real chance of making the New Jersey roster. For the most part, the tough roster decisions that Ray Shero and his team will have to make still lie ahead. I expect we’ll have those decisions after tonight’s game, either on Thursday or Friday.
The Battles within New Jersey: To that end, who will be in this game is important to note. If one assumes that their preseason finale on Saturday will be a "dress rehersal" for the regular season, then this would be the last chance for a number of players to make their mark. Let’s break it down again.
In net, the backup spot may still be up in the air between Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood. Kinkaid hasn’t had a lot of work in preseason, whereas Wedgewood has had a rougher time in terms of volume and results. Both would have to clear waivers if either is demoted, so it’s not an easy decision for Shero. Worse for both of them, Cory Schneider wants minutes. He was able to play on Monday and he wants more time to warm up for the season. According to this article in the Bergen Record by Andrew Gross, the plan is for Schneider to play in two periods tonight and the whole game on Friday. Whoever gets that non-Schneider period tonight may very well be the #2 goalie.
On defense, Yohann Auvitu, Steve Santini, and Seth Helgeson remain in camp and have been featured throughout preseason. While the Kyle Quincey signing - does he make his preseason debut tonight? - may relegate one of these three to being an "extra," starting in the NHL isn’t a bad gig. With Jon Merrill being out recently, that "extra" may be playing sooner than expected. For these three, tonight may be their last chance to make a lasting impression on the coaches.
At forward, a number of forwards are still around beyond those who are virtual locks to make the NHL roster. Pavel Zacha can either go back to juniors, play in 9 NHL games before going back to juniors, or remain in New Jersey. So far, he’s been playing prime minutes in preseason. Further work with regulars could be a sign that he’s sticking around for at least a little bit. The same could apply to Blake Speers. I expect him to go back to the OHL soon, but that he didn’t go back with the other junior-eligible prospects makes me wonder if he’ll get a larger look. At right wing, both Nick Lappin and Miles Wood have tried to make the most of their minutes between shots (especially in Lappin’s case), a few goals, and plenty of speed. I think both will end up in Albany, but I think they set themselves up to be called up earlier rather than later when the case arrives. Lastly, Joseph Blandisi is waiver exempt and he may become a paper move until some space clears up. Especially since he hasn’t exactly been a total standout in preseason.
The point is that this game is meaningful to plenty of players still in New Jersey, even if the result is essentially meaningless.
As for the Islanders...: Tonight is their penultimate preseason game too. (I was wrong, their last game is Sunday.) I was impressed with how they did on Monday. Their lineup wasn’t as strong on Tuesday, even though their performance was apparently good. Like the Devils, I would expect this to be an important game for the bubble players on their roster. So pay attention to who’s on this roster as well. There will be hungry Islanders as there should be some hungry Devils.
Your Take: I’m sure the lineups will be announced ahead of the game. Feel free to discuss either as they come out in the comments. And let me know what you’d like to see in this game - assuming you can see it - in the comments. I should be in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5 tonight to see it, so I’ll recap it. Thank you for reading. Go Devils!