Tonight’s game will feature the New Jersey Devils, who currently own a 22-12-8 record which positions them third in the Metropolitan Division, and the New York Islanders, who own a 23-18-4 record, which puts them fifth in the division. The Devils are coming off another disappointing showing, which resulted in their sixth consecutive loss. They’re currently facing six straight divisional matchups, which means it is imperative that they right the ship immediately.
The New York Islanders, who are currently riding a three-game winning streak, are coming off an overtime win last night in Montreal. The Islanders rank dead-last in the league in terms of goals against (3.6), and adding to the theme of bad defense, the Isles also own the 30th ranked penalty kill (73.9%).
However, New York wouldn’t have the record they do without their powerful offense, which averages 3.4 goals per game. This potent attack is led by superstar John Taveras (54 points), linemate Anders Lee (25 goals), and rookie of the year candidate Mathew Barzal (47 points). As a team, they can score at will whenever they want. However, they are also very vulnerable on the defensive end. The Devils certainly have their work cut out for them tonight.
Regarding personnel tonight, the New Jersey Devils are sticking with goaltender Cory Schneider in between the pipes, as he will be making his 34th start of the season. Blake Coleman will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season in favor of Stefan Noesen. On defense, Steven Santini will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.
Projected Devils Lines
Projected Islanders Lines
*- injured in last night’s game
What/Who to Watch
- Devils’ forward Pavel Zacha has been playing his best hockey of the year. Although his point totals may not be eye-popping, his underlying numbers have been fantastic. Since his benching on December 8th, he owns a scoring chances for percentage of 51.2% and a 50.3% Corsi For, which rank 3rd and 5th among Devils’ forwards, respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles his well-deserved elevated role.
- One of the main reasons that the Devils have endured a long losing streak is due to the poor play of goaltender Cory Schneider. He’s established himself as the backbone of the team and is usually a vital part of many of the Devils’ victories. However, over the past five games, he owns a save percentage of .868. He’s also given up four or more goals in each, which is very problematic and hampering the team’s ability to snap this skid. The road for Cory doesn’t get any easier as the Islanders have the ability to put up four-goals on any given night. It’s vital for him to be on his game tonight.
- The trio of Beauvillier-Barzal-Eberle is arguably the best line in hockey right now. Over the past two games, the three have contributed 18 points. This line is led by rookie sensation, Mathew Barzal, who has 10 points just in his last three games (3G, 7A). If the Devils want to stop the bleeding, they’ll need to do everything they can to shut down this trio.
- The Islanders defense and goaltending has been miserable. Coming into tonight’s contest, they’ve allowed at least 30 shots in 11 straight games. The result is them averaging four goals against per game during that stretch. They may score at a blistering pace, but they also give up a ton of great scoring chances for the opposing team. The Devils must take advantage of the Islanders’ defense if they want to keep up with their high-scoring offense.
Tonight’s game can be seen on MSG+ at 7:00 PM.