The New York Islanders return to the East Coast, as they continue their seven-game road trip tonight in New Jersey at 7 p.m.
The Islanders are 2-2 through the first four games of the trip, winning in Winnipeg and Calgary before dropping two straight in Edmonton and Vancouver. Tonight’s tilt with the Devils kicks off three straight games vs. Metropolitan Division opponents.
“We have to come out with a good start in Jersey and be ready to rock,” Travis Hamonic said. “It wasn’t our best effort in the last two games. We’re well aware of that and we know we have to be better. We have a better standard in here than that. We want to get back to playing Islanders hockey.”
Head Coach Jack Capuano shuffled his lineup prior to Tuesday’s game in Vancouver, activating Michael Grabner while sending defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to injured reserve. He also shuffled his lines midgame, promoting Mikhail Grabovski to the top line for the third period. Grabovski scored in the final frame, prompting the Islanders coach to keep the same lines at practice, but Capuano insisted nothing is set in stone.
“Every player in the league goes through line changes in a season, so it’s no different with us,” John Tavares said. “I always try to feed off my linemates and I want to be able to play with anybody. I want to be very versatile that way and that’s the focus going forward.”
Josh Bailey was on the team’s top line before a minor ailment held him out of Tuesday’s game. Bailey skated with the team Thursday, but his status is uncertain for tonight’s game.
“We’re healthy now,” Capuano said. “We have some tough decisions to make as a coaching staff and that’s a good thing.”
The Islanders have taken both meetings with the Devils this season and have won four straight against New Jersey. The Devils are playing the second half of a back-to-back set, so the Islanders will be rested, while the Devils may be weary after a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Jaromir Jagr leads a veteran Devils lineup with 25 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 42 games, while Mike Cammalleri leads the team with 13 goals. Patrik Elias recently reached the 1000-point plateau, hitting the milestone with a three-point night (one goal, two assists) Tuesday vs. the Buffalo Sabres. In the process, Elias recorded his 600th assist and is one goal shy of 400.
In net, Cory Schneider continues to see a bulk of the workload, playing 38 of the teams first 43 games including 20 straight games to start a season. Schneider is 14-19-4 this season with a 2.40 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
The Islanders have not named a starter for tonight’s game in New Jersey. Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson have split five of the team’s six back-to-back sets this season, so it remains to be seen how the goaltending duties will unfold.
Puck drop from Newark goes at 7 p.m.