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Devils shoot for home-and-home sweep of Islanders

by Brian Hunter
ISLANDERS (5-11-4) at DEVILS (12-8-1)


Last 10:
New York 2-6-2; New Jersey 7-3-0

Season Series:
Second of six meetings between these Atlantic Division rivals and the conclusion of a home-and-home that began Friday with the Devils claiming a 1-0 win over the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum. Petr Sykora scored on a second-period power play and Johan Hedberg turned aside all 23 shots he faced for his 19th career shutout.

Big Story:
The Islanders will once again try to solve the offensive woes that have plagued them all season, as they've scored an NHL-low 38 goals in 20 games. Friday marked the sixth time already in 2011-12 that they've been blanked, with five of those zeroes being put up before their home faithful.

Team Scope:

Islanders: It was a frustrating afternoon on Long Island, as New York received three power-play opportunities in the first period but couldn't crack New Jersey's vaunted penalty-killing unit, No. 1 in the League. When the Islanders took their first penalty, a hooking call to Michael Grabner in the second, the puck ended up in their net for the game's only goal. Grabner had a chance to redeem himself in the third when he got hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway, but Hedberg denied him on the ensuing penalty shot. Al Montoya made 22 saves in the hard-luck loss.

"We have to score on our chances," forward John Tavares said. "We played hard, but that doesn't change the results. Their goalie played well, but we have to find a way to put a few in the net."

For the second straight game, New Jersey managed just a single regulation goal, but once again its goaltender was up to the task. After Martin Brodeur was spectacular in getting the Devils to a shootout on Wednesday, which they won against the Blue Jackets, this time Hedberg was flawless in his first start in 10 days. Sykora scored his fifth goal of the season when the puck came to him in between the circles after point man Adam Larsson's stick broke, keeping him from getting the intended velocity on his shot and perhaps throwing Montoya for a bit of a loop.

"I had a good one-timer a couple of shifts before, kind of wide of the post," Sykora said. "I had time, so I just wanted to try to hit the blocker high, and it worked out. You don't get too many chances like that when you have so much time."

Who's Hot: Montoya, activated off injured reserve to make his first start in over two weeks, has a 2.23 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in seven games this season. … Sykora has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last eight games. Hedberg has 7 wins, a 2.24 GAA and a 920 save percentage.

Injury Report:
New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and defenseman Mark Eaton (sprained MCL) are on injured reserve. … New Jersey forwards Travis Zajac (Achilles), Eric Boulton (hand) and Jacob Josefson (collarbone) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: The Islanders had the better showing in the faceoff circle Friday, winning 35 of 57 draws. They also had a 32-27 advantage in hits. … Larsson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has put together a four-game assists streak for the Devils.

Puck Drop: Brodeur has started to shoulder the load again for New Jersey now that he's healthy and finding his game, and coach Peter DeBoer said he will start Saturday at Prudential Center. However, Hedberg has come up big at almost every turn this season, something his coach and teammates are well aware of and appreciate.

"He was great," DeBoer said. "That's what we need. He's a consummate pro: he sits and waits for his turn, then comes in and pitches a game like that. It's exactly what we need."

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