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.