Friday, 7:00 PM on MSG+, MS+2
Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Devils: 29-22-7 (65)
Isles: 30-19-6 (66)
The Devils had a nice little run going there as they battled to stay in the playoff race—until Tuesday night when they were clobbered by their rival Flyers 6-3. John Haynes was none too happy about any aspect of their performance, and rightfully so. It’s time to put that behind them, and fast.
There are arguably no 2 points more important so far this season than the ones on the table this Friday against the Islanders.
A couple of reasons: The next 4 games are against Metro Division teams (Isles, Caps, Rags and Columbus), so any chance of the Devils sniffing the post season will depend largely on the outcomes over this next week.
Friday also marks their last game this season against the Isles, who currently are one point ahead of the Devils for the last playoff (wild card) spot. Losing this game would significantly widen the gulf, especially with no games in hand, and make it all the more difficult for the Devils to gain any ground in the coming weeks.
Additionally, I’m curious to see how the Devils respond after such a poor collective effort. They’re aware of what’s at stake and this will game be equally as telling about their composition and fortitude.
Further complicating issues is the NHL trading deadline on Feb 29, which is a little over a week away. Ray Shero has a lot of important decisions to make by then and how they fair over the next few games will help shape that story. Buy, sell, stand pat? Suffice to say, there’s a lot on the line this next week.
Key Matchups / Payers to watch:
– J Tavares remains awesome, scoring again last night against the Caps. Zajac & Co. will need to keep his line is check.
– Devils were an amazing (20-0-4) when scoring 1st (until the Flyers drubbing on Tuesday). They’ll look to apply pressure and get on the board early.
– Boucher and Blandisi have not only been sparkplugs for this team over the past few weeks, they’ve been a lot of fun to watch. The Devils will need them to continue their growth.
– Thomas Greiss’ stellar play has created something of a goalie controversy on Long Island. He played last night in an OT loss so we may be facing Halak who’ll surely be looking to get his game back on track.