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Game Preview: Islanders at Devils

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Having already faced the New Jersey Devils three times this season, the New York Islanders have a pretty good idea of what’s waiting for them tonight in Newark: a tight-checking, grinding, low-scoring game.

Six of the past eight Islanders-Devils games were decided by one goal and the last three in Newark have all gone to overtime or a shootout. The good news: the Islanders have won three straight at Prudential Center and five overall vs. the Devils.

“Expect a tough, defensive battle tomorrow,” Frans Nielsen said Friday after the Islanders’ practice. “They’ve always been a hard-working team, well-structured defensively. You really have to work for your chances against that kind of team, so we have to be prepared, can’t get frustrated and stick with the game plan.”

According to Nielsen, the game plan is for the Islanders to use their speed, get pucks deep and grind out a tired Devils team that will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set. The Islanders had three days off between games, their longest idle stretch since the All-Star Break, and should be rested for tonight’s contest. Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak are expected to be in the lineup, giving the Islanders more fresh legs and two of their star players.

Defenseman Travis Hamonic, a veteran of 24 Islanders-Devils games – the most he’s played against any NHL team – said the Islanders need to simplify their game to break a four-game slump.

“As a group we need to make sure we keep things as simple as possible right now and just get back to playing the way we feel we are capable of,” he said. “The rest should take care of itself.”

The biggest obstacle standing between the Islanders and a sixth straight win over the Devils is goaltender Cory Schneider.

Schneider has been on a tear since the all-star break, allowing two goals or fewer in 16-of-20 contests. The Devils goaltender is 10-6-3 over that span, with one relief appearance mixed in.

“They have a heck of a goalie right now,” Hamonic said. “They play a really good system and it definitely gives some teams trouble. When they have Cory Schneider back there making saves, it’s a pretty tough feat, but we’re up for the challenge.”

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
43-25-4 (90 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
20-13-4 road
New Jersey Devils
31-29-11 (73 points - 5th in Metropolitan Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)
18-10-8 home
7:00  p.m.
Prudential Center
Newark, NJ

Play-by-play: Jiggs McDonald
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- House of Cards (Mar. 20)
- Isles TV: Frans Nielsen (Mar. 20)
- Isles TV: Travis Hamonic (Mar. 20)
Islanders player to watch
Jaroslav Halak - Goaltender

After not playing in the Islanders’ last two games, Head Coach Jack Capuano deemed the Slovakian netminder “good to go” for Saturday at practice during the week. Halak’s statistics against New Jersey this season are some of his best against any team. In three games, Halak has a 3-0-0 record with a  .942 save percentage and 1.60 goals against average.
Devils player to watch
Cory Schneider - Goaltender

Cory Schneider is likely the Devils' MVP for the 2014-15 season. Schneider has five shutouts this season and very respectable numbers with a .929 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average. The Marblehead, MA native has been red-hot as of late, allowing only two goals total over his last three games including a shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
New York Islanders previous game lines
12 Josh Bailey - 91 John Tavares - 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee - 29 Brock Nelson - 18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin - 51 Frans Nielsen - 26 Tyler Kennedy
17 Matt Martin - 53 Casey Cizikas - 15 Cal Clutterbuck

14 Thomas Hickey - 3 Travis Hamonic
44 Calvin de Haan - 55 Johnny Boychuk
37 Brian Strait - 46 Matt Donovan

30 Michal Neuvirth
60 Kevin Poulin

New Jersey Devils previous game lines
14 Adam Henrique - 21 Scott Gomez - 18 Steve Bernier
23 Michael Cammalleri - 19 Travis Zajac - 20 Jordin Tootoo
8 Dainius Zubrus - 11 Stephen Gionta - 9 Martin Havlat
15 Tuomo Ruutu - 16 Jacob Josefson - 10 Peter Harrold

6 Andy Greene - 5 Adam Larsson
7 Jon Merrill - 28 Damon Severson
32 Mark Fraser - 22 Eric Gelinas

35 Cory Schneider
1 Keith Kinkaid

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