The New Jersey Devils will be facing off against the New York Islanders tonight at 7:00 PM at Nassau Coliseum. Each team is searching for their third straight win.
The Islanders have had a much better season than the Devils thus far, sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 25-10-3 record (53 points). New York will look to continue their good play after beating the first-place Washington Capitals in Washington D.C. on New Year’s Eve.
Although the Devils have gone 5-2-1 in their last eight games, they are still stuck in the basement of the standings with a 14-19-6 record (34 points). All New Jersey can do at this point is to continue to win games and hope that the seven teams ahead of them in the playoff race lose at the same time. After beating the Boston Bruins 3-2 at home in a shootout to end 2019 (see below), the Devils will try to start 2020 by getting their third win in a row for the first time all season.
Who to Watch: Sami Vatanen
In each of our last two game preview articles, leading scorers from the Devils and the Bruins were chosen as the players to watch because of their ability to carry their teams in the clutch situations. However, for today’s game, New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen is the man to keep an eye on for production if the Devils want to walk away with a victory.
Since the 28-year-old defenseman isn’t known as one of the better offensive defensemen in the league, it may come as a surprise to know that Vatanen is currently fifth on the team in total points with 21 (five goals, 16 assists).
He has been key to New Jersey’s recent success, as he’s recorded eight points in the team’s last eight games and is currently on a five-game point streak. He has also been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dull and unproductive powerplay unit. Vatanen leads all Devils players in assists on the powerplay (eight), which accounts for half of his assists for the year. He is also second on the team in total points with the man advantage, trailing only winger and point leader Kyle Palmieri.
If the Devils do get themselves a powerplay in tonight’s game, expect Sami to step up and look to extend his nice point streak to six games.
Keys to the Game
If the Devils want to walk away with a win tonight, they must look to get out ahead early in the first period.
The Islanders and the Devils are on opposite ends of the league standings when looking at the number of goals allowed for each team. New York has allowed the least amount of goals thus far (100), while the Devils have allowed the third-most (138) in the NHL. New Jersey needs to put pressure on the Islanders by cracking through their stable line of defensemen early if they want a chance to win.
Even though the Islanders have a much better record and goals allowed average than the Devils, both are within the league’s bottom ten teams when it comes to scoring. New Jersey has the second least amount of goals scored (102) and New York has scored the tenth least amount (114).
With that being said, we should expect this to be a low scoring affair. With the focus on the stars of each team for goal production. Along with the aforementioned Sami Vatanen, look for Kyle Palmieri of the Devils and Matthew Barzal of the Islanders to be the go-to for their team’s offensive gameplans.
New Jersey Devils Lineup
- Blackwood (starter)
New York Islanders Lineup
- Varlamov (starter)