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Two points loom large for both Devils, Islanders

by Mike G. Morreale
ISLANDERS (27-32-10) at DEVILS (31-32-4)
Last 10 --
New York 5-2-3; New Jersey 8-2-0
Season series --
This is the fifth of six between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Islanders won the first two, 2-0 at home on Nov. 26 and 5-1 in Newark on Dec. 23. The Devils rebounded with consecutive victories at the Nassau Coliseum, 5-2 on Jan. 17 and 3-2 via a shootout last Sunday.
Big story --
How crucial is this game? Let's put it this way -- a loss would certainly put a kink in the playoff hopes for either club. Both teams played and earned victories Friday night, but the Islanders were only in Long Island while the Devils had to fly back from Atlanta. The Devils, 21-3-2 over their last 26 games, are eight points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 15 games left. The Islanders, 10-3-3 over their last 16 games, are 10 points back with 13 contests remaining.
Team Scope:

Islanders -- The Islanders are 4-0-2 in their last six games and have accumulated the most points (49) in the Atlantic Division since ending a season-crushing 1-17-3 slide on Dec. 16. New York overcame a 2-0 deficit to the Boston Bruins on Friday with four unanswered goals. Michael Grabner scored 1:28 into the third to pull the Isles into a 2-2 tie before Jack Hillen struck 4:30 later. Matt Moulson, who scored with only two seconds remaining in the second to get the Isles on the board, also had an assist and Kyle Okposo dished out two assists.
Devils --
After denying a power-play attempt by the Atlanta Thrashers in overtime, the Devils took advantage of the man advantage soon thereafter when Travis Zajac scored his second of the game off a feed from Patrik Elias with 42 seconds remaining in the extra period to give New Jersey a pivotal 3-2 victory -- its eighth straight game decided by one goal. It marked the first time this season that New Jersey, which plays eight of its remaining 15 games at home, scored three power-play goals in a game. Goalie Martin Brodeur played his sixth straight game on Friday since his return from a knee injury and earned his fifth win. He's allowed nine goals in the six starts.
Who's hot --
Islanders goalie Al Montoya, a former first-round pick of the New York Rangers, made 26 saves in Friday's victory over Boston and improved to 7-2-3 with a 1.92 GAA since an early-February trade from Phoenix.
Injury report --
New Jersey forward Zach Parise (knee) and defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion), Matt Taormina (ankle) and Matthew Corrente (shoulder) are out. … The injury-riddled Islanders actually received some good news this week as center Doug Weight and goaltender Rick DiPietro practiced, but are still not ready to return to game action.
Stat pack --
Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk has recorded points in 16 of the last 18 games, including his team-leading 25th goal of the season against Atlanta. He has 11 goals, 20 points and a plus-11 rating over that span.
Puck drop -- Zajac, who notched his first two-goal game of the season against Atlanta, played in his 386th consecutive game Friday night. He needs just three more to break Ken Daneyko's franchise record for New Jersey.

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