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Game Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. the New York Islanders

On the night Patrik Elias becomes immortalized in the rafters, the Devils have an important divisional match.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
From almost a year ago - will the other Gionta be there tonight?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (31-22-8) vs. the New York Islanders (29-26-7). SBN blog: Lighthouse Hockey

The Time: 8:00 PM gametime; 6:00 PM Patrik Elias jersey retirement

The Broadcast: MSG+

The Matters at Hand for Today: There will be a ceremony for Patrik Elias before the game, when his 26 will be raised into the rafters of the Prudential Center. It sounds like he’ll have some guests for it, given what he said in a phone call with The Record a few days ago:

“This is awesome. This is going to be big. This is going to be a lot of fun. All that you see being put in to make this happen, all the people from the Devils’ organization, guys changing their plans, people from Europe, all making sure they can arrive this weekend.”

Before the game today, I would suggest taking a look at Patrik Elias’ article in The Player’s Tribune.

Game Matters - A New Face: Michael Grabner will be making his Devils debut, presumably, for the Devils tonight. He practiced yesterday, and while I think that the Devils overpaid for him a slight bit, I’m waiting to see what he can do on the Devils. If he gets paired with a line such as Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha, look out. Zacha has been passing better and better as the season has went on, and that perhaps some of his ability would be realized with two of the fastest skaters on his wings. One of those players now a 17.7% shot percentage over since the 2016-17 season. I think that line would be the best place to put him.

He will be wearing number 40, as Blake Coleman has switched to 20 to accommodate the Devils’ new acquisition. He is the twelfth player to play for the all of the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders.

The Goaltenders: Cory Schneider will not be back today, and is expected to be back at full practice on Monday. Keith Kinkaid will be starting. In other goaltending news, Scott Wedgewood is on waivers.

On the Islander end: The Islanders recently re-signed Josh Bailey to a six year, $30 million deal. I’m surprised he came that cheap. He’s third on the Islanders in points with 62 - 15 goals and 47 assists. And while he may never replicate this season, I’m pretty surprised he didn’t try to take this to free agency to get something like six or seven million in AAV. Now, the Islanders have to focus on John Tavares.

John Tavares has had some trouble lately. He’s slowed down in his past 14 games - with four goals and three assists. Two of those goals and all three assists came on the power play. In comparison to the first 48 games of the season, where he had 57 points, that is a considerable difference.

Meanwhile, Mathew Barzal has only scored points in five of his past 12 games...but that has made out to be 14 points - having four multi-point games (including a five assist game) and one game with a single point. Barzal is explosive, but his point production seems insanely streaky, having three five-point games this season.

The Standings: A regulation win tonight would mean a seven point gap between the Devils and Islanders going into the trade deadline. Will the Islanders sell? Probably not, as long as Columbus flounders to everyone but the Devils.

Your Take: Are you more excited for the pre-game ceremony, or the game itself? How do you view tonight’s game? Do you think the Islanders are hurting their chance to re-sign Tavares by keeping Bailey? Do you think that Garth Snow will have a job in two to four months? What line do you want to see Grabner on tonight? In the case the team is fully healthy, who would you think sits out of the current crop of players in the lineups? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.