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Devils continue push for Atlantic title against Isles

by Mike G. Morreale
ISLANDERS (34-36-10) at DEVILS (46-27-7)

Last 10 -- New York 5-4-1; New Jersey 4-3-3

Season series --
The teams are meeting for the sixth and final time this season. New Jersey has won three of five, but the Islanders came away with a 4-2 decision in the most recent clash at Nassau Coliseum on March 13 when Mark Streit scored a power-play goal midway through the second to give the Islanders their third unanswered goal. Sean Bergenheim would seal the deal 11:33 into the third with a shorthanded goal for the visitors.

Big Story -- The Devils are looking to lock up the second seed in the Eastern Conference with the first of two games at home to close out the regular season. The Devils are currently ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division by virtue of the fact they won the season series. New Jersey concludes the season Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres while the Penguins are in Atlanta tonight and Uniondale, N.Y., against the Islanders on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Isles were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Monday when Boston picked up a point for losing in overtime to Washington. Still, for a team that finished with the worst record in the League in 2008-09, coach Scott Gordon has made significant strides in bringing some sense of pride back to the locker room. The club is 8-4-2 over its last 14 games.

"Our team all year long has competed hard," Gordon said. "We may have been out-talented some nights, but I don't think we had too many nights when we were out-battled or out-worked, and there's no reason for that to change now."

Devils -- Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen defeated his former team for the second time this season on Thursday when he stopped 42 shots in a 3-2 victory in Sunrise. Patrik Elias and David Clarkson scored for the Devils in their final road game of the season. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who secured his 600th win in a victory over Atlanta on Tuesday, made 15 saves in the loss. While the Devils are assured of their 13th consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, whether they enter the tournament as the second, third or fourth seed is still in question.

Who's Hot --
Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus has 1 goal, 5 points and a plus-4 rating over his last three games on a line with Zach Parise and Patrik Elias.

Injury Report -- New Jersey forward Andrew Peters (scratched eye) remains out. … The Islanders' injury list is lengthy. Forwards Blake Comeau (broken foot) and Doug Weight (shoulder) and defensemen Radek Martinek (knee) and Dustin Kohn (concussion) are out.

Stat Pack --
Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo matched last season's rookie total of 18 goals when he struck in the first period of a 7-3 setback to the Penguins on Thursday. The St. Paul, Minn., native has already set career highs for game-winning goals (4), assists (30) and points (48).

Puck Drop --
"I think we still have the upper hand if we do win both our games (over the weekend)," Brodeur said when asked what he thought of his team's chances of earning the second seed in the conference. "So, when you have it in your own hands, that's what you want. Definitely, it's a missed opportunity (Thursday) to help ourselves out a little bit."

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