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Devils get first look at Tavares as Islanders pay visit

by Mike G. Morreale /

ISLANDERS (5-5-5) at DEVILS (9-4-0)

Last 10 -- New York 5-3-2; New Jersey 8-2-0

Season series -- The Devils get their first look at 2009 top draft pick John Tavares. The Devils not only won the six-game series last season, 4-2, but they also held a 226-177 advantage in shots.

Big Story -- Will he or won't he? New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias, coming off multiple surgeries this offseason (one on his hip and two on the groin), began practicing with the team for the first time this week hoping for a weekend return. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire was asked when he expected the club's all-time leading scorer to play following his team's victory over the Capitals on Wednesday. "Very soon, in the next few days," Lemaire told the media. "If not the next game, I would think the following one. But there's always things that change."

Team Scope:

Islanders -- Led by a pair of goals from the unlikeliest of skaters -- defenseman Brendan Witt -- the Isles scored a 3-1 victory over Edmonton on Monday to earn their fourth straight win. The team hadn't won four in a row since January and February of last season. Not only was it the first multi-point game of Witt's 14-season career, but his two third-period goals tied his total goal output of the previous two campaigns. The Islanders, who then dropped a 3-0 decision to Buffalo on Thursday, will play eight of their next nine on the road, where they have a 1-3-3 record.

"The biggest thing is that our identity needs to be relentless," Islanders coach Scott Gordon told Newsday. "For us to be successful, we've always got to be backing up each other. And I don't mean in a fighting way. I mean in a skating way, in a forechecking way."

Devils -- Stop the presses -- the Devils finally notched a win on home ice. New Jersey's 3-2 victory over the Alex Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals on Wednesday was the club's second in six tries at Prudential Center this season. With Pittsburgh having lost in Los Angeles on Thursday night, the Devils are the only NHL team still unbeaten on the road (7-0).

"We've won two of our last three games (at home), so we've got to try to build on this," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur told The Bergen Record. "We have a good challenge with the Islanders coming in on Friday. They’re playing well, so we've got to try to build up a little winning streak at home."

Who's Hot --
Tavares is having an extremely productive rookie campaign, scoring 5 goals and 11 points in 14 games for the Islanders. He did, however, see his four-game point-scoring streak (2 goals, 2 assists) come to an end on Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to the Sabres and All-Star goalie Ryan Miller. Devils center Travis Zajac has 13 points in his last 12 games.

Injury Report -- Isles goalie Rick DiPietro, who didn't play after Jan. 5 last season because of lingering effects from multiple surgeries on his right knee, has resumed skating but isn't expected back until mid-November. Meanwhile, wing Trent Hunter, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle on Oct. 8, could be activated in the next several games.

Defenseman Paul Martin and forward Jay Pandolfo are out long-term for the Devils. Defenseman Johnny Oduya remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury and Rob Niedermayer is out with an upper-body injury suffered Wednesday against the Capitals.

Stat Pack --
Brian Rolston needs one goal to reach 100 in his eight-season career with the Devils and Jamie Langenbrunner needs two assists to reach 200. With 43 shots in 13 games, Devils wing Niclas Bergfors is second among rookies to Tavares (48 shots), who has played two more games. Bergfors, incidentally, scored two power-play goals 3:13 apart in the third to send the Devils to a 3-2 win over Washington.

Puck Drop --
Brodeur is still seeking one more shutout to equal the NHL record of 103 established by Terry Sawchuk 30 years ago. Brodeur has notched 10 shutouts against the Islanders over his career with a 2.21 GAA.

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