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Devils, Isles play matinee at Prudential Center

by Mike G. Morreale /
ISLANDERS (10-9-7) at DEVILS (16-6-1)

Last 10 -- New York 5-3-2; New Jersey 7-2-1

Season series -- The teams will face off for the second time this season. New Jersey scored a 2-1 victory at Prudential Center back on Nov. 6 when Brian Rolston connected for his 100th career goal as a Devil with 6:20 left in the second period to snap a 1-1 tie. Backup goalie Yann Danis made 23 saves to notch the victory against his former team.

Big Story -- Both clubs are forced to make a quick turnaround for Saturday's afternoon clash. The Devils were in Boston on Friday, where they edged the Bruins 2-1 in a shootout, and the Islanders beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum. Martin Brodeur is coming off a start in which he passed Patrick Roy for most minutes played by an NHL goaltender and there's the possibility Danis will receive his fourth start of the season.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- The last time goalie Rick DiPietro manned the pipes for the Islanders was Jan. 5 of last season. But his 10-month sabbatical from the goal cage -- a result of multiple knee surgeries -- could soon be coming to an end after he went through his "first full go-ahead practice" on Tuesday. DiPietro was joined by six teammates following the team's overtime win against the Maple Leafs on Monday. He also worked out with the full squad at the morning skate before Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Flyers.

"It was good, the pace was high, and I faced a lot of shots," said a slimmer DiPietro, who claims to have shed 15 pounds. "You forget how good these guys are until they bear down on you."

There's no timetable to DiPietro's return and he'll likely be sent to the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport for a brief conditioning stint before making his next NHL start.

Devils -- There was a time earlier in the season when the Devils struggled on home ice -- losing their first three games at Prudential Center on the way to a 1-4 mark over their first five in Newark. The club enters today's matinee with the Islanders riding a five-game winning streak at home while allowing just seven goals over that stretch. The team will play nine of the next 11 games at home.

"We're at home. We know what we have to do," winger David Clarkson said. "We have nine games to show people we're tough at home."

Who's Hot -- Devils left wing Zach Parise picked up his 14th goal of the season Friday and has 8 goals and 14 points in the last nine games. He's played in 151 straight games and has 153 points over that span. Since returning from a pectoral strain on Nov. 9, Islanders forward Trent Hunter is riding a nine-game point-scoring streak (4 goals).

Injury Report -- DiPietro, who hasn't played since Jan. 5, has resumed practicing but isn't expected back until early December. Islanders captain Doug Weight (upper body) is out until mid-December.

The Devils are without forwards Jay Pandolfo (dislocated right shoulder), Rob Niedermayer (upper body) and Dainius Zubrus (fractured right kneecap) and defensemen Paul Martin (broken arm) and Johnny Oduya (lower body). Clarkson took a Zdeno Chara shot off his ankle Friday, didn't return and doesn’t seem likely to play on Saturday.

Stat Pack -- Devils coach Jacques Lemaire coached in his 400th regular-season game for the Devils on Wednesday -- a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. He sports a 215-128-58 all-time record with the franchise after Friday's victory.

Puck Drop --
Following an earlier loss to the Devils, Islanders coach Scott Gordon complained his club was insufficient on their forecheck while taking too many "dumb" penalties. He's hoping his young unit can rebound this time around -- the Devils finished 1-for-5 on the power-play against the Isles on Nov. 6.

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