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Islanders closing in on first-place Devils

by Mike G. Morreale /

ISLANDERS (3-2-1) at DEVILS (3-0-2)


Season series: It's the second of five meetings between the Atlantic Division foes. The Devils scored a 2-1 victory at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in both teams' season opener Jan. 19 when David Clarkson scored 8:17 into the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. Goalie Martin Brodeur made 18 saves while Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves in defeat.

Big story: The Islanders enter the game after having notched a point in four of their past five games to move within one point of first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division standings. After opening the season with three straight victories, the Devils have suffered consecutive road losses, against the Montreal Canadiens in overtime and the Boston Bruins via shootout. While Devils coach Peter DeBoer has liked the energy with which his team has competed, he'll be looking to snap their two-game slide against the Islanders.

Team Scope:

Islanders: The Islanders on Tuesday won their second straight at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, dating to last season, as Matt Moulson had a goal and an assist, Michael Grabner scored his fourth of the season, Casey Cizikas scored his first NHL goal and Nabokov made 37 saves in a 4-1 victory. Nabokov (3-1-1, 2.99 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) just missed earning his 53rd career shutout when Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis scored with 1:09 left in the third period.

Devils: The Devils and Boston Bruins remain the only Eastern Conference teams without a regulation loss this season. The Bruins rallied for a 2-1 shootout win against the Devils on Tuesday, needing a goal from Nathan Horton to tie it with 4:05 left in the third before winning a six-round shootout. Clarkson scored his fourth of the season for the Devils in the second period and Johan Hedberg, who was making his season debut between the pipes, made 27 saves in defeat.

Who's hot: Patrik Elias has 32 goals and 79 points in 78 career games against the Islanders, while Ilya Kovalchuk has 21 goals and 42 points in 45 career games against them. … John Tavares, who leads the Islanders with eight points (two goals), has two goals and four points in his last two games.

Injury report: New York will be without Josh Bailey (knee), Jesse Joensuu (sports hernia surgery) and Lubomir Visnovsky (suspended by team). Defenseman Travis Hamonic, who sustained an ankle injury Sunday, was in the lineup against the Penguins on Tuesday. … New Jersey forward Adam Henrique could return from left thumb surgery by the end of this week.

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