Sitting four points behind a quartet of teams tied for the Eastern Conference's two wild-card spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New Jersey Devils have eight games remaining in the regular season. Any chance New Jersey had of making the playoffs has been bolstered by the collective poor play of those four teams.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs went a combined 1-6-1 this week before evening games began Saturday; that includes Washington's 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
Visiting the New York Islanders on Saturday, the Devils are looking to make one last-gasp run at the postseason.
"We have nine games to go. If we want to make the playoffs we have to win almost every game now. And every game is tough. There are no easy games in this League," forward Jaromir Jagr said. "We have to make sure we play our game and we might need help from other teams."
With 1,464 games, 704 goals and 1,748 points to his credit, Jagr has just about more individual NHL experience than the entire Islanders team. Forward Kyle Okposo remains out with a lower-body injury, so the Islanders will dress nine rookies: goalie Anders Nilsson, defensemen Kevin Czuczman and Matt Donovan, and forwards Mike Halmo, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, John Persson, Ryan Strome and Johan Sundstrom. Nilsson will start.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he did not have any concerns about the majority of experience coming from the American Hockey League.
"It's a league where you learn the pro life, whether it's the amount of games you play, the travel or the demands of the schedule," Capuano said. "For some of the young guys, they play against men down there. That's where you learn to play the game."
Goaltender Cory Schneider will start for New Jersey. Forward Steve Bernier is back in the lineup after he sat out the previous two games as a healthy scratch.
Here are the projected lineups for the Devils and Islanders:
Tuomo Ruutu - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe - Dainius Zubrus - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Eric Gelinas - Marek Zidlicky
Jon Merrill - Peter Harrold
Scratched: Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito
Injured: Anton Volchenkov (lower body), Bryce Salvador (undisclosed)
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Anders Lee
John Persson - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Mike Halmo - Casey Cizikas - Johan Sundstrom
Travis Hamonic - Calvin De Haan
Thomas Hickey - Kevin Czuczman
Matt Carkner - Matt Donovan
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Radek Martinek
Injured: Kyle Okposo (lower body), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), John Tavares (knee), Michael Grabner (concussion), Brian Strait (hand).