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In their Saturday matchup against the New York Islanders, the Devils prevailed in a 3-2 shootout victory, despite blowing a 2-0 lead. Tonight, the Devils complete the first of three two-game sets against the same team, and could start their second three-game winning streak of the season with a victory tonight. After missing Saturday’s contest, it looks like winger Jiri Tlusty will return to the lineup tonight. Cory Schneider is slated to make his ninth consecutive start, and has gone 6-1-0 in his last seven games after dropping his first two starts of the season. This will be New Jersey’s first visit of the year to the Barclay’s Center and their fourth road game against a divisional opponent. A win tonight could give the Devils a strong start to what is shaping up to be a much more difficult November schedule compared to the competition they faced in October.
The Islanders will be without their captain John Tavares for the second straight game, who has been sidelined with an undisclosed illness. The notorious Devil killer is undoubtedly a welcomed subtraction from the Islanders lineup for a Devils team that’s looking to pick up points early on in the season. Head coach John Capuano has relied on the likes of Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Kyle Okposo, and Brock Nelson for his offense’s primary source of scoring during Tavares’ absence. Despite going winless (0-0-2) since Tavares was sidelined, the aforementioned quintet has combined for three goals over that span, all of which were scored shorthanded or on the power play.
The forefront of New York’s defense has been Johnny Boychuk. He leads the Islanders defense in points, the entire team in shots, and is second on the team in hits and blocks. The Islanders, who currently lead the entire league in hits, have three defensemen that currently rank in that department’s top-20 (Hamonic, Boychuk, de Haan). De Haan and Boychuk respectively rank second and seventh amongst defensemen in blocks. Three of their defensemen are also among the top-20 in takeaways with Hamonic currently leading the league’s defensemen with 16. Simply put, the Devils need to keep their heads up, choose their shots, and passes wisely tonight.
In my opinion, Jaroslav Halak is one of the most underrated goaltenders in the league. He’s 3-1-1 through five games this year and his 1.78 GAA is currently fifth in the league amongst goaltenders. Despite going 1-1-1 in his last three, Halak’s last two wins were shutouts. Ironically, Halak faced the least amount of shots (17) in his shootout loss against the Devils after facing an average of 29 shots in his first four starts this season. It’s worth noting eight of the nine goals Halak has surrendered this season came in the first two periods (four apiece). He exhibited this correlative trend on Saturday’s game when the Devils scored twice in the first, an indication that Halak may be having what can be described as a “slow start” issue early on this year. The Devils can take advantage of this developing trend by scoring fast, early, and do what they can to maintain their lead.
Who to watch
Adam Henrique…He’s been quiet as of late, having no points in his last three games after he previously had six goals and nine points in his seven before his pointless streak began. Henrique has been a relatively streaky player in his last two seasons and his play seems to factor in the outcome of the games he plays in. the Devils are 3-3-0 this year in games Henrique didn’t get on the score sheet, while going 3-1-1 when Henrique registered a point. If Henrique is due to continue adding to his seasonal totals, tonight would be as great a time as any.
Frans Nielsen…He’s emerged as New York’s go-to guy up front since Tavares was sidelined, but has seen his play escalate prior to his team captain’s injury. Nielsen, who scored the tying goal for the Islanders on Saturday, has four goals and six points in his last five games, over which he’s registered 14 shots on net and has seen his ice time steadily increase. His last two goals were scored shorthanded and on the power play, and he had two five-on-five goals prior to that. Nielsen is proving he can contribute in all situations for the Islanders, which is something they will rely heavily going into tonight.
What to watch
More early scoring…? Prior to Saturday’s matchup, the Devils failed to score in seven of the ten first periods they played in this season. As previously mentioned, the two goals they scored in the early minutes of their last game was indicative to Halak’s early season tendency to surrender early goals before finally settling down as the rest of the game progressed. It remains to be seen whether or not this trend will carry over into tonight. Perhaps tonight’s game will be one where the most important goal that gets scored is the first one.
Where to watch
When to watch