The New York Islanders have had a light schedule over the first five weeks of the season, playing a league-low 12 games overall and just four on the road.
Regardless of what breaks the Islanders have been given, they have taken advantage.
New York looks to close a season-high six-game homestand on a four-game winning streak Saturday night as it faces an inconsistent New Jersey Devils team coming off one of its best efforts of the season.
The Islanders have played three fewer games than any other Eastern Conference team, and four days have passed since their last outing.
Besides looking to match its longest winning streak from all of last season, New York (8-4-0) hopes to improve upon its 4-1-0 record against divisional opponents - best in the Atlantic.
The Islanders are in the midst of a seven-game stretch against division rivals, and are off to a fast start. On Saturday, the Islanders came from behind to beat Pittsburgh 3-2 as coach Ted Nolan stepped aside to let legendary Isles coach Al Arbour behind the bench for his 1,500th game with the franchise. Two nights later, they beat the New York Rangers by the same score after rallying from a 2-1 third-period deficit.
"We're a resilient bunch," said Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who shook off the effects of an injured eye to earn his seventh win.
DiPietro said he wasn't concerned about getting right back into a game so soon after his eye injury, which occurred during the Pittsburgh game. He was given the go-ahead to practice Monday and ended up making his seventh straight start.
"It still feels a little different than the other one. It's hard to explain," he said. "The doctors cleared me to play and I did."
New Jersey (6-7-2) is in unfamiliar territory - last place in the Atlantic. Coach Brent Sutter made sure he had his team's full attention with taxing practices on Tuesday and Wednesday following Monday's 5-0 home loss to the Penguins.
Sutter's strategy appeared to pay off - his team dominated Philadelphia on Thursday in a 4-1 win, outshooting the Flyers 39-14.
"We responded in the right way," Sutter said. "There was a lot of emotion tonight on our end. I thought we were mentally strong the whole game."
The Devils have given up 44 goals in 15 games, and Martin Brodeur hasn't played much like the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, with a 2.82 goals-against average and a save percentage of .890. He hasn't finished below .902 since his 1991-92 rookie season.
A sputtering offense, however, may be more responsible for New Jerey's poor start. Though Sutter promised a more wide-open style than the plodding, trapping Devils teams of old, New Jersey ranks near the bottom of the NHL with 36 goals. The Devils are 1-6-1 in games when they give up the first goal.
Special teams also have been a problem. The Devils convert just 14.1 percent of their power-play opportunities and have killed off only 73.8 percent of opponents' man advantages.
Despite his struggles, Brodeur has been stellar in his career against the Islanders, posting a 38-17-2 record with four ties. He's won his last six starts against them, including four at the Nassau Coliseum.
Devils backup Kevin Weekes was in net for the only prior meeting this season, a 4-3 overtime loss in New York on Oct. 20.
|Apr 01 '08||NJD 2 at NYI 1 - OT||Z. Parise|
|Mar 21 '08||NYI 3 at NJD 1||K. Okposo|
|Feb 23 '08||NYI 2 at NJD 4||Z. Parise|
|Jan 16 '08||NYI 3 at NJD 1||M. Sillinger|
|Dec 29 '07||NJD 2 at NYI 5||A. Sutton|
|Nov 16 '07||NYI 1 at NJD 0||J. Vasicek|
|Nov 10 '07||NJD 1 at NYI 2||M. Satan|
|Oct 20 '07||NJD 3 at NYI 4 - OT||B. Guerin|