DEVILS (32-13-1) at ISLANDERS (21-19-8)
Last 10 - New Jersey 6-4-0; New York 7-2-1
Season series - It's the third meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals, but the first trip by the Devils to the Nassau Coliseum. New Jersey won both games at the PrudentialCenter, 2-1 on Nov. 6 and 6-1 on Nov. 28. The Devils will be back at the Coliseum on Saturday night.
Big story - The Devils complete a five-game road trip on which they've hit a couple of potholes. They're back East after consecutive losses in Phoenix and Dallas that followed a 1-0 shootout win over the Rangers in New York that saw Martin Brodeur stop a career-high 51 shots (plus four more in the shootout). In contrast, the Islanders are playing their best hockey in a couple of years. They've won five of their last six, including Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo that was the first victory in more than a year for now-healthy goaltender Rick DiPietro. The Isles, last in the NHL in 2008-09, start the week holding down the last playoff spot in the East.
Devils - New Jersey will be looking to get off to a better start that it did in the losses to the Coyotes and Avalanche. The Devils trailed 2-0 after the opening 20 minutes in both games and spent the rest of the contests playing catch-up.
"We didn't start the way we wanted," Brodeur said after making 25 saves against the Avalanche. "You don't want to spot a team like that two goals. That's two games in a row we did that."
Islanders - He's not likely to play today, but DiPietro showed Saturday that he may be ready to play a significant role for the Isles. After missing more than a year with a knee injury that required surgery and a lengthy rehab, then looking rusty in a 4-3 loss at Dallas on Jan. 8, DiPietro looked much improved in the win over the Sabres. He stopped 31 shots and was greatly improved in controlling rebounds.
Trent Hunter's goal in the eighth round of the shootout put the Islanders ahead, and the Coliseum erupted after Patrick Kaleta shot wide to give DiPietro his first win since Dec. 26, 2008.
"I was trying not to cry on the ice," DiPietro said. "That's the one thing I told myself. I wouldn't cry. It's an emotional time for me. It's been a long time coming, been a rough road. Just to get the win was amazing."
Who's hot - New Jersey center Travis Zajac is 4-3-7 in his last six games. … Isles forward Kyle Okposo had his four-game goal-scoring streak snapped on Saturday but is 4-1-5 in his last five games. Dwayne Roloson, the likely starter in goal for the Isles, has won his last four decisions and is coming off a 6-0 win over Detroit last Tuesday.
Injury report - The Devils will be without forward Patrik Elias, who was taken off the ice early in Saturday's game after a hard, clean check by Colorado's Ryan Wilson. He missed practice on Sunday and will be evaluated by team doctors this week. Forward David Clarkson (broken leg) and defenseman Paul Martin (broken arm) are on IR and likely won't return for a couple of weeks or more. Center Dainius Zubrus (broken kneecap) may start skating this week. He's missed nearly two months. … The Isles are still without forward Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone).
Stat pack - Though the Devils and Islanders have lived on different planets in terms of success over the last decade, the Nassau Coliseum hasn't been a fun place for New Jersey - they've won just twice in their last seven visits and were outscored 11-3 in their last two trips to Long Island last season. Lifetime, the franchise is 26-60-11-3 at the Coliseum. … Despite their mini-slump, the Devils are still 18-7-0 in their last 25 games.
Puck drop - The Devils are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since going 0-2-1 at Philadelphia, Nashville and Dallas in mid-November. They figure to miss Elias (26 points in 32 games), while the Islanders will try to match a season-high four-game winning streak and retain control of the last playoff spot in the East.