NEWARK, NJ - When the Devils host the Islanders tonight, they'll do so with some fans in the building for the first time this season. 10% capacity is allowed at Devils games beginning tonight, per Governor Phil Murphy's announcement last week.
"I think it's going to be great," said Devils forward Pavel Zacha. "You know, it's great for us. It's been a while since we played with any fans in the arena. So I'm just excited to have someone there."
Goaltender Aaron Dell is getting the nod between the pipes tonight for the Devils and he echoes those sentiments.
"I mean, it's exciting," he said. "I've I forgot what it's like to have fans now. It's going to be nice to have some fan noise over the fake fan noise that they've got. And I'm just pretty excited to be in there."
Head Coach Lindy Ruff thinks the fans can help bring a little something extra tonight.
"Definitely, energy they can provide and the excitement they can bring to the building," he said. "I know it's a limited number, but it's a real good step in the right direction. When you're playing in front of your own fans, there's that little energy boost. Even though we won't have a full house, I think it will make a difference."
THE GREEN MACHINE
Tonight, the Devils will wear their Reverse Retro uniforms for the first time, which means they'll be suited up in a dark green. It makes for a different look and the players are excited to trot out with the new swag.
Count Lindy Ruff as a fan of them too.
"I actually like the green. It's a color that looks pretty sharp. The green gloves, green hat, green jacket. Win the Masters maybe," he quipped.
THE UNSTOPPABLE PAVEL
Zacha has been having a career season for the Devils. He leads the team in points with 14 (6-8-14) through 17 games and is tied for the goal-scoring lead with six. He's riding a 10-game point streak currently. But Zacha contributes a lot of success to his teammates.
"I just trying to battle for pucks hard, you know, using my teammates and going in front of the net. There are a lot of plays that my teammates made that made me have those points and I just have to keep going and working hard."
Zacha was the sixth-overall pick in 2015 but is still only 23. His big body and top-notch shot make him a valuable asset and he's breaking out this season. He's nearly halfway to his career-high in goals (13) and nearly halfway to his career-high in points as well (32) in just 17 appearances.
"I think the way we were playing, the system we're playing, it just helps us," said Zacha. "It helps me get my speed and playing a lot more on the offensive… And I think that's what every forward wants, to play in a system like that."
The Devils will be without their captain once again. He's still dealing with an upper-body injury from taking a puck to the visor two games ago.
"Not a lot I can share," said Ruff. "He's still being evaluated by our doctors and we will have an update in the next couple of days."
DEVILS (7-8-2) vs ISLANDERS (11-6-4)
TV: MSG+ at 7 PM ET
This will be the third of eight games between New Jersey and the New York Islanders in the 2020-21 regular season series. The Devils will play the Islanders four times in March, the most of any other team.
Ty Smith leads the Devils in points against the Islanders this season with three points in two games, all assists.
Devils Team Scope:
The Devils dropped back-to-back games to the Capitals this past weekend. Over their last 10 games, the Devils are 4-5-1 and they sit 2-6-1 through nine games at Prudential Center.
Pavel Zacha has picked up at least a point in 10 straight games, with four goals, eight assists and 12 points in that time. Zacha leads the Devils in scoring with 14 points.
New Jersey is seven points behind Pittsburgh for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division but has three games in hand on the Pens.
Islanders Team Scope:
The Islanders are tied for second in the East Division with 26 points, two back of Washington for top spot.
New York had a successful month, going 8-2-2 in the month of February.
Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 18 points in 21 games.
By the Numbers:
Zacha is one of five players this season in the NHL to record a 10-game point streak or longer. Zacha becomes the 22nd player in Devils franchise history to record a 10-game point streak or longer. Zacha became the seventh youngest player in franchise history to record a 10-game point streak.
Four Islanders had nine points through February's 12 games: Josh Bailey, Nick Leddy, J-G Pageau and Anders Lee.
Devils:Nico Hischier (upper body) is day-to-day; Miles Wood (face) is day-to-day
Islanders: Cal Clutterbuck (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Cory Schneider (personal) is out