(7:30 p.m. ET, TV: VERSUS | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils come to Long Island, tonight, one final time before the postseason for the Islanders' 76th game of the regular season.
We've been talking about it for months, but the Eastern Conference race for the final playoff spots hasn't become any clearer. There are still six teams who have a legitimate shot at the final three spots. Currently, the Islanders are tied with two other teams - Carolina and Montreal - for that elusive eighth spot. The Islanders and Carolina each have seven games remaining, while Montreal has six left.
For you scoreboard watchers, there are three other games of note tonight: Florida at Tampa Bay, Rangers at Montreal and Carolina at Toronto. Check newyorkislanders.com "Playoff Chase Blog" for complete coverage of the Islanders' competition.
Taking a half-full cup look at things, the Islanders have earned points in three straight games (2-0-1) after losing six of seven games.
The Islanders couldn't get the extra point in their latest games against the Rangers, falling 2-1 in overtime on a Michael Nylander power-play goal. Like the Islanders have been doing all season after tough losses, they've moved past it and are looking forward to their next game.
With his power-play assist, Tom Poti moved into a tie with Mike Sillinger for the team lead in assists with 31. Poti is tied for 14th in the league with 22 power-play assists. Jason Blake, meanwhile, is tied for eighth in the league with 37 goals.
After defeating the Devils in their first matchup of the season, the Islanders haven't been able to solve Brodeur and the Devils, earning a lone point in a thrilling 2-1 overtime loss on January 13th in their next five meetings.
The Islanders may have caught Atlantic Division-leading Devils at the right time considering their recent struggles. They've gone a pedestrian 4-5-2 in the month of March with a number of their top forwards on the shelf.
Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias, John Madden and Erik Rasmussen have been out parts of this month. After skating with the team Monday, Elias, Madden and Rasmussen could return tonight, while Gionta is still out with a groin injury.
Picking up the slack for the Devils has been North Dakota alums Zach Parise and Travis Zajac as well as Jamie Langenbrunner. Parise, in his second season, is leading the team with 29 goals. Langenbrunner is tied for second on the team with 57 points, while Zajac is fifth on the team in goals with 16.
Despite an average March, Brodeur is still among the league leaders in goals against average and save percentage, while leading in shutouts and wins.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Mike Emrick and Brian Engblom can be seen tonight on VERSUS.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR VERSUS ON LONG ISLAND
Islanders - 84 points, 4th place, Atlantic Division
New Jersey - 96 points, 1st place (tied), Atlantic Division
Islanders - Jason Blake, 37; Mike Sillinger & Tom Poti, 31 assists; Ryan Smyth, 66 Brendan Witt, 127 PIM
New Jersey - Zach Parise, 29 goals; Scott Gomez, 46 assists; Patrik Elias, 65 points; Cam Janssen, 109 PIM
Islanders - Power play: 17.3 percent. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent
New Jersey - Power play: 17.3 percent. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent
Islanders - Rick DiPietro (32-19-9, 2.58 GAA, .919 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-8-3, 3.49, .896)
New Jersey - Martin Brodeur (43-22-7, 2.22, .922); Scott Clemmensen (1-1-1, 3.47, .880)
2006-07 SEASON SERIES:
Islanders - 3 pts; New Jersey - 10 pts
February 17, 2007 at the Nassau Coliseum: New Jersey, 2-0 win
Islanders - 20-11-6 at home
New Jersey - 22-13-3 on the road.
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
44 Freddy Meyer
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
15 Jeff Tambellini
18 Mike Sillinger
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
30 Martin Brodeur
40 Scott Clemmensen
5 Colin White
6 Andy Greene
7 Paul Martin
21 Brad Lukowich
28 Brian Rafalski
29 Johnny Oduya
9 Zach Parise
10 Erik Rasmussen
11 John Madden
12 Jim Dowd
15 Jamie Langenbrunner
16 Tuomas Pihlman
17 Michael Rupp
18 Sergei Brylin
19 Travis Zajac
20 Jay Pandolfo
23 Scott Gomez
25 Cam Janssen
26 Patrik Elias
27 David Clarkson