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Game Preview #4: New Jersey Devils @ New York Islanders

Coming off of their first win of the season, the Devils make the trip to Elmont to take on the Islanders. How will the Devils fare against a familiar foe?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders
Jack Hughes is due to find the back of the net
Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (1-2-0, 2 points) visit the New York Islanders (2-1-0, 4 points). SB Nation Blog: Lighthouse Hockey

The Time: 7:30 PM ET

The Broadcast: TV - ESPN+ and Hulu Exclusive. RADIO - Devils Hockey Network (Access through the official Devils app)

The last Devils game

After a rough start, the Devils came back to defeat the Ducks by a score of 4-2 on Tuesday night. I talked about what the Devils did well in my recap, but remain skeptical that all of their issues are fixed after one win. Hopefully they can build off of that win.

The last Islanders game

The Islanders trounced the Sharks 5-2 on Tuesday evening behind two goals from Oliver Wahlstrom. Isles captain Anders Lee and Zach Parise got in on the action as well, with Cal Clutterbuck chipping in an empty net goal to seal the W. Semyon Varlamov was solid for the Isles in net stopping 26 of 28.

The last Devils-Islanders game(s)

The Devils and Islanders met two weeks ago in the penultimate preseason game for New Jersey. Sort of. The Devils didn’t send much of a lineup to UBS Arena, Graeme Clarke was one of the lone bright spots for New Jersey, and the Devils were mostly non-competitive in the loss, as Chris stated in his recap.

If you want to recall the last time these teams met in the regular season, that was back on April 2nd, 2022. You may recall that that was the night Jack Hughes’s season came to an end after Oliver Wahlstrom sort of stuck his leg out and kneed him. You may recall Cory Schneider making the spot start for the Isles and beating his old team because of course he did. You may recall Kyle Palmieri scored because of course he did. You may recall that J.G. Pageau was one of several opposing players from last season to record a hat trick against the Devils. He did so on this night because of course he did. Lastly, you may recall that PK Subban was tossed for having Hughes’s back and Barry Trotz issuing not-so-thinly veiled threats of retribution. Good times.


The Devils stuck with the same lines that worked late in the Ducks game during Wednesday’s practice.

Jonas Siegenthaler apparently took a puck to the jaw at some point during the Anaheim game and was wearing a shield during practice. He seems to be fine, but its something to keep in mind as he likely wears a shield tonight as well.

I mentioned during my recap the other night that I don’t really like Holtz on the 4th line. If I could make a recommendation for potential lineup switches, I’d strongly consider inserting Zetterlund in for Holtz. The Islanders play a heavier style of hockey than the Devils do and he’d be a better fit for that type of game. I’d also consider inserting Kevin Bahl for similar reasons, although I’m not sure what defenseman I’d take out. Brendan Smith is coming off of his best game as a Devil and he isn’t a pushover, and it seems unlikely they would sit Ryan Graves for the rookie.

As for the Isles, here are their lineups from their last game against San Jose.

Keys to the Game

The Devils went 1-3 against the Islanders last season. Are there any common themes from the three losses that they can try to be better at? Yes, there are.

One area they can be better is on special teams. The Devils were 1-10 on the power play in those three losses. That one goal was effectively cancelled out with a short-handed goal allowed to Zach Parise. We all know the issues the Devils had on the power play last season, and we know that the power play this season has yet to get going as they’re 1-9 with the man advantage on the young season. The Islanders were 3-9 on the power play against the Devils last season in those games, which isn’t great in a small sample size. Keep in mind though that the Isles are a defense-first team with plus goaltending. The margin for error is already small for a team like the Devils and becomes even smaller when you’re on the losing end of the special teams battle.

The Islanders, when they’re going well defensively, tend to not allow a whole lot of offense off of the rush. Seeing as the Devils generate so much of their offense off of the rush, they’re going to have to find a way to counter that. The Devils didn’t do much in the losses when the Islanders clogged up the neutral zone, nor did they do a particularly great job when it came to things like puck management and being able to complete passes. Granted, the Islanders deserve credit for taking that away, but its something that needs to be addressed.

It goes noted that in the one game that the Devils did win last season, they had the edge in the special teams battle, going 1-2 on the power play and killing all three Islanders power plays. As Chris mentioned at the time, we’re talking about very small margins and this was one where the Devils had the advantage and won the game. Of course, a flawless performance in net by Mackenzie Blackwood helps, as those have been few and far between.

Of course, I could point out that the Devils were shorthanded in those losses. Hischier and Graves missed one of the games due to COVID protocol. Hughes missed one game and part of another with two separate injuries. So did Dougie Hamilton. I could point out that the three goaltenders in those losses were Akira Schmid, Jon Gillies, and Nico Daws. But those would be excuses as much as they may be reasons.

The Isles will have the benefit of last change and getting the matchups they want after stoppages in play. Not ideal with a veteran-laden roster and a 4th line that can get after it. They have the benefit of better goaltending than the Devils. I would guess Ilya Sorokin plays tonight. They have the benefit of more consistent defensive play in their own end. It’ll be a challenge for the Devils.

Lastly, the Islanders put up 12 goals the last two games against the Sharks and Ducks. What do those teams have in common with the Devils? Bad goaltending for one. I wasn’t impressed with what I saw from the Ducks defensively Tuesday night and seeing as the Sharks have already given up 19 goals in 5 games, I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest they also stink. Can the Devils please keep the defensive miscues to a minimum against a team that is capable of making them pay?

ESPN+ and Hulu Exclusive Again

Mike Monaco and Kevin Weekes will call tonight’s game on ESPN+ and Hulu exclusively. You can subscribe at the link here if you have not done so already. Do not ask for illegal stream links in the comments as that is frowned upon and those comments will be deleted.

Final Thoughts

What do you think about tonight’s matchup? Can the Devils get back to .500 against our “We Don’t Like You, but We Hate the Rangers Far More” Rivals? Who would you start in net? Do you want to see the Devils play a heavier-style lineup against the Isles? Please feel free to leave a comment below and thank you for reading!