3/29/14 Pregame: Islanders Host New Jersey

The New York Islanders return home to the Nassau Coliseum for a 7p.m. puck drop Saturday to take on their longtime rival the New Jersey Devils. This will be the fourth of five meetings between the two this year. The Devils have won two of the three previous matchups, including the most recent, a 6-1 triumph on Coliseum ice back on March 1st.  (Photo credit: paul.hadsall/flickr).

The Islanders will try to improve on their dismal 11-18-8 home record and notch their second straight home win, a feat they have only done two other times this season. In another playoff-less season, one can only wonder where the Islanders would be if they had been able to take care of business on home ice.

The Islanders are coming off of a tough, yet entertaining, 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Thursday night. Dressing ten rookies in the lineup, the Islanders were able to come back from an early second period goal against and lead 2-1 heading into the third. However, as has been the case too often this year, the Islanders couldn’t hold the lead and after a scoreless overtime period, the game was finally decided with a 13-round shootout.

Despite the loss, Ryan Strome and Kevin Czuczman played their best games in the blue and orange to date. And even though the Islanders utilized a “top” line of Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee, they were able to control play for large portions of the game against the playoff-bound Lightning.  The Islanders were without top scorer Kyle Okposo and his status for the Devils' game is uncertain at this point.

There has been no definitive word on who will get the start in net for the Islanders Saturday night. However, after Evgeni Nabakov played a strong game in Tampa Bay and had to endure a marathon shootout session, expect Anders Nilsson to get the nod. The Swedish netminder was victorious in his last outing in Carolina but looked shaky at best as he struggled with his rebounds and locating the puck. Nilsson will continue to get an extended look these last few weeks as he auditions for a spot in the organization next season…an audition he is currently failing.  (Photo credit: CassieMadonia/flickr).

Their opponent, the New Jersey Devils, also come in fresh off of a 3-2 shootout loss Thursday night, this time in Newark against the Coyotes. The Devils are an astounding 0-9 in shootouts this year and is a significant reason why they currently sit on the outside of the playoff bubble with 76 points with several teams standing between them and the eight spot in the East.

The Devils are led by the ageless Jaromir Jagr who leads the team with 60 points. They have also gotten solid seasons from veteran Patrick Elias and centerman Adam Henrique who has already potted a career-best 24 goals. Reports have also stated that Cory Schneider will get the start for the Devils as coach Pete DoBoer continues to alternate his goalies down the stretch.  (Photo credit: tsyp9/flickr).

New Jersey has excelled on special teams this year and sports the 8th ranked powerplay and top penalty killing in the league. The Islanders can ill-afford to turn this into a battle of special teams if they want to grab the two points.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the big news from the past few days in Islander-land. According to multiple reports, owner Charles Wang is in discussions to sell his majority stake in the franchise. There will be plenty of discussion on the topic in the future and many questions and issues still remain- the good, the bad, and the ugly. We still do not know who is interested in the team or how far along in the process it is. And Wang even went to the lengths to come out from behind his curtain and issue a statement acknowledging that although some conversations have taken place, no sale is guaranteed.

But at least for one day the collective spirit of the Islander fan base has risen on the hope of a better future…a more stable future…a winning future.

Follow me on Twitter @mikepac23 and check out @TCLIsles for up-to-date information on the Islanders.