Coming off a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils enter this afternoon’s game having gone 2-1-1 in their last four contests, after winning just one of their first six games this November. New Jersey previously faced the Islanders earlier this month, which results in a 3-0 loss—their only shutout defeat this season. Things haven’t looked up for New Jersey in the weeks since, and they’ve mostly struggled during afternoon games this season.
As of writing this, no announcements or indications have been made in regards to lineup changes, but I’d expect Keith Kinkaid to start between the pipes, and Coach Hynes going with a similar or identical lineup to the one that bested Montreal on Wednesday night. With this afternoon’s bout being New Jersey’s Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Devils have all the more reason to play with additional motivation—especially for their beloved teammate Brian Boyle, who seems to hit the ground running on these special tribute nights. With that time of the season approaching where the rift between the season’s contender and pretenders starts to widen, the Devils need to start stringing wins together and climb up the standings, after their sharp descent following their 4-0-0 start.
Keys to the Game
Scoring first and holding leads…In 14 games where the Devils scored first this season, they’ve gone just 8-6-0, and struggle enough as it is to maintain subsequent leads. The Islanders are a feisty tenacious team, and one that capitalizes when teams sit back against them during games. The Devils need to be consciously aware of their performance when ahead during games, and can’t take anything for granted.
Special teams…(shocker) For the most part, New Jersey has fared pretty well on special teams, but it hasn’t prevented them from losing games at the expense of underperforming and losing games due to these situations. In their first loss against the Islanders, New Jersey failed to capitalize on four power play opportunities, while surrendering a shorthanded goal. Eight of New Jersey’s 20 games this season were decided by one or two goals, so their performance on special teams can wind up making or breaking this afternoon’s outcome.
Secondary scoring must continue momentum gain…A couple of weeks ago, the Devils were largely rendered as a one-line team, which made them relatively easy to play against on a strategic basis. Forwards like Brian Boyle, Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman have had surprisingly impressive starts to the season, combining for 20 goals going into this afternoon’s bout. Ever since the return of Jesper Bratt, New Jersey’s second line unit of Bratt, Pavel Zacha, and Marcus Johansson has stepped up considerably, with Zacha in the midst of a formidable goal-scoring streak since his call-up back to the big team.
Projected Lineups (Courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com, subject to change)
Where and When to Watch
4:00 PM EST
New Jersey has to be feeling confident after their five-goal performance over the Habs, but the Islanders are coming into tonight’s game extra-motivated, after enduring a 5-0 beatdown against the mutual rival of both teams—the New York Rangers. Throw in New Jersey’s history of struggling during afternoon games and the overall lack of consistency this team has, I’m going to say the Islanders win this one 4-1.