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Islanders visit Devils in battle for playoff positioning

by Mike G. Morreale

ISLANDERS (16-16-3) at DEVILS (15-11-9)


Last 10: New York 5-5-0; New Jersey 4-2-4

Season series: This will mark the fifth and final meeting of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals. The teams have split the previous four meetings, with the Islanders scoring a 5-1 triumph in the most recent battle at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 16.

Big story: Only four points separate the Devils and Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings, so a regulation win will certainly go a long way toward qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since each team has just 13 games remaining.

Team Scope:

Islanders: The Islanders became the 15th straight victim of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Consol Energy Center when Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves in a 2-0 victory to notch his second straight shutout. Evgeni Nabokov, who was making his fifth straight start in nine days for the Islanders, made 25 saves but the Penguins scored twice in the third period to snap New York's three-game winning streak. This is the final game of a four-game road swing for the Isles, who will face off against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in Uniondale, N.Y.

Devils: While the Devils failed to pick up a win on their recent three-game road trip, the team did earn three points following a pair of shootout losses to Ottawa and Tampa Bay and an overtime setback to Florida on Saturday. The Panthers pulled into a 2-2 tie with 27 seconds left in the third and their goalie pulled for an extra attacker on Shawn Matthias' second of the game. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov then scored his first goal of the season just 1:43 into overtime to give Florida their second straight victory. Steve Bernier scored a pair of goals and Martin Brodeur, 7-1-4 over his past 12 decisions, made 27 saves in the loss.

Who's hot: Andrei Loktionov scored his seventh goal of the season on Friday for New Jersey and now has four goals and six points in his past seven games. His seven goals since making his Devils' debut on Feb. 18 are tops on the team. … Islanders goalie Nabokov is 3-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .938 save percentage over his past four starts.

Injury report: The Devils are without right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (shoulder), who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to March 24, and right wing Dainius Zubrus (left wrist). Defenseman Henrik Tallinder returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing the previous 11 games with a lower body injury. … New York forward David Ullstrom (groin) is on injured reserve.

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