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Grabovski to start on Islanders top line against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

ISLANDERS (26-13-1) at DEVILS (15-21-7)

TV: MSG+, MSG

NEWARK, N.J. -- New York Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski will open on the top line with center John Tavares and right wing Kyle Okposo against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Friday.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano experimented with that combination in the third period of a loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and Grabovski scored his sixth goal of the season. Capuano said nothing is set in stone, however.

"[Grabovski] is a possession kind of guy and holds the puck and he gets some zone time," Capuano said. "It'll be interesting to see how that plays out because [Tavares and Okposo] are guys that do the same thing. Will that work? It's something we'll look at. You don't want to break up the chemistry of the other lines when they're going well, but this is something we need to try because our 5-on-5 and secondary scoring hasn't been where it needs to be."

Capuano also confirmed defenseman Brian Strait will be back in the lineup in place of Matt Donovan, and forward Josh Bailey will replace Cal Clutterbuck. Bailey missed the game against the Canucks with a lower-body injury.

Jaroslav Halak will make his sixth straight start in goal for the Islanders. He is 3-2-0 in the past five.

The Islanders are looking to extend their win streak against the Devils to five games, which includes two wins this season. The Devils last defeated the Islanders on March 1, 2014, a 6-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum. Since then the Islanders have won four straight, including three in a shootout. The Islanders have won the first two games against the Devils this season.

Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid will make his first start in four games. Cory Schneider (14-19-4) made his NHL-leading 38th start of the season Thursday against the Boston Bruins, making 40 saves in a 3-0 defeat.

Kinkaid is 1-2-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. His first NHL win came against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a 26-save performance in a 3-2 shootout win Dec. 19 in Newark.

"It definitely would be nice to get a start," Kinkaid said after an optional morning skate Friday before the Devils made the official annoucement. "Just to kind of get into a little flow before heading out to the West Coast when everything is spread out. You don't know what to expect out [west]. We're focused on getting the two points [against the Islanders] and rebound from [Thursday]."

Here are the projected lineups:

DEVILS

Adam Henrique - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Mike Cammalleri

Martin Havlat - Dainius Zubrus - Michael Ryder

Tuomo Ruutu - Tim Sestito - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Mark Fraser - Marek Zidlicky

Seth Helgeson - Jon Merrill

Keith Kinkaid

Cory Schneider

Scratched: Steve Bernier

Injured: Jacob Josefson (illness), Peter Harrold (head), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (concussion), Damon Severson (ankle), Stephen Gionta (broken hand), Eric Gelinas (illness)

ISLANDERS

Mikhail Grabovski - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Ryan Strome

Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Nikolay Kulemin

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Josh Bailey

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Eric Boulton, Matt Donovan

Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body), Matt Carkner (back), Cal Clutterbuck (undisclosed)

Status update: Gelinas, who has missed the past four games with the flu, resumed skating Friday. He gave no timetable for his return and said he needs to regain his strength. Josefson, who has also missed the past six games with the flu, skated for the second straight day. He said he's feeling better.

Who's hot: Elias has four goals in his past eight games and is one shy of 400 for his career. … Okposo has one goal and eight points in the past eight games.

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