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Game Preview #26: New Jersey Devils @ New York Islanders

The Devils went 0-4 on the PP and didn’t put enough pucks on net against the Preds on Friday in a 3-2 loss. Can they do better in their UBS Arena debut tonight against the sputtering Isles?

NHL: New York Islanders at New Jersey Devils
It would be swell if the Devils kept old friend Kyle Palmieri and company off the scoresheet at UBS Arena
Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (10-10-5, 25 points) visit the New York Islanders (6-11-5, 17 points). SB Nation Blog: Lighthouse Hockey

The Time: 7:30 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - MSG, ESPN+. RADIO - Devils Hockey Network on Audacy

The last Devils game

The Devils lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators last night. Rather than continuing to beat a dead horse, I broke down why they lost in a lengthy recap, which you can read here.

The last Islanders game

The struggling Isles fell 4-3 to the Predators Thursday Night to remain winless in their new digs at UBS Arena in seven tries. To make matters worse, they gave up two late third period goals including the deciding goal to Eeli Tolvanen with 12 seconds remaining in regulation. Seymon Varlamov gave up 4 goals on 29 shots as his struggles continued, as he’s posted a .875 save percentage over his last six outings.

The last Devils-Islanders game

These teams met one month ago at the Prudential Center and the Devils blanked the Isles 4-0 behind a stellar performance in net by Mackenzie Blackwood. Chris noted in his recap of that game how the Isles certainly tested Blackwood that evening with a ton of high danger chances, but the Devils made the most of the opportunities they had. Janne Kuokkanen scored a short-handed goal in the first, Tomas Tatar.....(checks notes).....scored a power play goal? Ok then. Dawson Mercer scored a nifty goal showing off his soft hands in the third and Dougie Hamilton added the cherry on top at the end.

Of course, both teams look much different since that last meeting. The Isles have dealt with injuries and a COVID outbreak and are still trying to dig out of the hole they’ve built for themselves, while the Devils likely won’t Alex Holtz, Jesper Boqvist or Tyce Thompson in the lineup for this one like they did on November 11th. The one big difference for the Devils is that they do have Jack Hughes back, who has a goal and two assists in six games since returning from injury.

What will the lines look like?

The Devils lines last night were as follows

Zacha - Hischier - Bratt

Johnsson - Hughes - Sharangovich

Vesey - Mercer - Tatar

Kuokkanen - McLeod - Bastian

Graves - Hamilton

Siegenthaler - Severson

Smith - Subban

Blackwood (with Akira Schmid backing up)

Lindy Ruff was non-committal postgame last night which goaltender he would go with against the Islanders. I didn’t think Blackwood played poorly against the Preds, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to #29 rather than Schmid, who will likely make his NHL debut at some point in the near future after the team announced Jonathan Bernier was headed to IR earlier on Friday and may miss significant time.

The Devils top two lines were mostly fine against Nashville aside from their inability to finish. That doesn’t necessarily mean I would go back to this lineup, but I don’t think Ruff will switch things up either. If it were up to me, I’d probably go back to Zacha-Hischier-Tatar, Johnsson-Mercer-Bratt, Kuokkanen-Hughes-Sharangovich and Vesey-McLeod-Bastian.

As for the Isles, they ran with this in their last outing (via Left Wing Lock)

Lee - Barzal - Bailey

Beauvillier - Pageau - Palmieri

Bellows - Czarnik - Wahlstrom

Johnston - Parise - Clutterbuck

Pelech - Mayfield

Greene - Dobson

Chara - Aho

Varlamov

Isles coach Barry Trotz noted that Brock Nelson (lower body injury) and Casey Cizikas (COVID protocol) were ‘days away’ from a return on Thursday, so its possible one or both draw into the lineup Saturday night. Ryan Pulock remains out with a lower body injury.

Devils First Trip to UBS Arena

The Devils will be making their first trip to the Islanders new home in Elmont, which has already become a house of horrors for them. New York is 0-5-2 and as I already mentioned, lost their last game there in heartbreaking fashion.

I bring that up because the Devils do NOT want to become the first visiting team to lose there, so they’re going to need a full sixty-minute effort against a team that has historically given them fits the last few years. So I would implore the Devils to give a good effort or they might incur the wrath of CM Punk next when All Elite Wrestling visits Prudential Center next month.

(Side note for the NHL and AEW crossover fans.....the Ottawa-QT Marshall comp is just *chef’s kiss*)

Final Thoughts

The 2021-22 season is quickly becoming a season to forget for the New York Islanders, but that doesn’t mean the Devils can just show up and expect to win. The Isles are still a veteran-laden team that is coming off of two Eastern Conference Final appearances and will compete hard. Much like with what they did earlier in the week with the Flyers, the Devils need to learn how to kick a struggling team while they’re down and get two points that they need to get. That goes double after a tough loss on home ice the previous game.

What do you think about tonight’s matchup? Are the Devils capable of doing what I just suggested and keep the Islanders buried in the basement in the Metropolitan standings? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!