NYI vs. NJD Trilogy Continues (Part II of III)
With the New York Islanders 7 points behind the 8th and final playoff seed, the team will go into tonight's matchup against the Devils with their eyes set on two points. Part II of the trilogy matchup will be started by Evgeni Nabokov and Martin Brodeur. Brodeur took the 1-0 loss in Sunday's matchup and will be looking to help his team build on a solid 4-1 victory over the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers. (BridgetDS/Flickr)
While Brodeur went on a personal 0-4-1 skid before beating the Rangers, he played well enough to earn the win against the Islanders. Meanwhile, Evgeni Nabokov has had some well deserved rest since his 3-2 win against the Bruins last Saturday. It is yet to be seen what kind of an effect the long layoff will have for the Islanders, but the team cannot afford to come out flatfooted once again because they haven't played a game since Sunday. The Devils and Islanders will be equally hungry for the two points that are at stake as the Devils are just one point ahead of 7th place Ottawa and the Isles are still very much in the playoff picture.
The Islanders could very well use some help from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks tonight, but the Isles must make sure that they take care of their business first. Kyle Okposo scored the first and only goal for the Isles against the Devils, but tonight's matchup will undoubtedly take more than one goal to decide the victor. Anders Nilsson's best friend (the goal post) helped him out a couple of times last Sunday, but the Islanders played a very sound defensive game and limited New Jersey's scoring opportunities for the most part.
If the Islanders are to come out of tonight's contest with two points, they must play the same tight form of defense that they displayed on Sunday. During the third period of Sunday's game, Ilya Kovalchuk had the puck poke-checked off of his stick and out of the Islanders' zone, a play that epitomized the strong defensive game that the Isles played. While the Isles must put pressure on players such as Kovalchuk and Parise, New York must also work out its quirks on the man-advantage. The Islanders were given plenty of power-play opportunities on Sunday afternoon, but were unable to capitalize and left the game being 0 for 5 with the man-advantage.
The New York Islanders are in a great position to improve their playoff chances, but the team cannot lose focus in these last 16 games. John Tavares hit a crossbar and a post during Sunday's contest and it will be extremely beneficial if the Isles' top line opens up the scoring tonight and sets the tone of the game. Josh Bailey's play on the wing has been great of late and so has the play of Casey Cizikas (3 Assists in 6 Games since callup). Some secondary scoring would really help the Isles' chances of walking out of the Prudential Center with 2 points tonight, but tight defensive play will play a huge role in tonight's game. (Robert Kowal/Flickr)
The New Jersey Devils will have Alexei Ponikarovsky back in the lineup tonight and Michael Grabner will remain out for the Islanders as he has been scratched after missing two games with the flu. Brodeur holds a record of 48-27-4-2 against the Islanders in his career while Evgeni Nabokov holds a lifetime 2-5-0 record with a 3.39 GAA and .874 Save Percentage against the Devils.