Saturday, December 30, 2006


Game: Devils @ NY Islanders, 2 of 8

The New Jersey Devils visit the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to take on the New York Islanders tonight, in their last game of both December and of 2006.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY 2
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Islanders: 0-1-0 Preview

The Islanders have had the Devils number last season and they seem to have it this season. They beat the Devils at home - a difficult task for away teams as NJ has been 13-3-2 at home so far - 5-2 back in November. Here were my thoughts on that game; a game in retrospect was part of a poor stretch of play by the Devils. The Islanders have been hot against the Devils. Rich Chere's Devils Notes in today's Star Ledger points out that the Islanders have beaten the Devils in each of their last 5 games against each other. The preview provided by has another unsettling statistic: Rick DiPietro has had shutouts in his last 3 games at home. Given that the Islanders last played this past Wednesday, he'll definitely be in net tonight and he'll be on. What's more, the Islanders won their last 4 home games. The Islanders are just 4 points behind New Jersey in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand, a Devils loss would make their ascent gain even more momentum and close to that all-important division lead.

While all these trends are impressive, let's take a look at some reasons why this should not beat the Devils down before the game start:
  1. In that Devils Notes article, the Devils are cognizant of the Islanders' strong play against New Jersey as well as their own woes on the road. Since the Devils are aware of this, it would be surprising if they did not act accordingly upon it.
  2. The Devils special teams are, as the cool kids may be wont to say, "blazin'." The Devils are now up to converting 19.4% of their power play opportunities, thanks to a Sergei Brylin power play goal from last night. You know where that ranks in the NHL? FIFTH. Yes, the Devils have a power play in the top five of the NHL. Back in November, they couldn't score a power play goal to save their lives. Now, they are officially "hot." The Devils have also been dominant on the penalty kill, killing 87.9% of all shorthanded situations which is good for the third best rate in the league. By comparison, the Devils outclass the Islanders on special teams. The Islanders rank 20th on the power play with a 16.7% effective rate and 24th on the penalty kill with killing 80% of all penalties. More than ever in the New NHL, special teams are important and this could prove to be the difference tonight.
  3. The EGG line is clicking. For starters, Scott Gomez is not only playing but he's coming off a very productive night. It's very possible that it could be the start of a streak. Patrik Elias has been awesome throughout December - by my count he has had 9 goals and 11 assists in 13 games. Brian Gionta has been no slouch either, putting up 5 goals and 7 assists in that same time span. Good luck to the Islanders in stopping them.
  4. The Devils have a legitimate second scoring unit! Zach Parise has really blossomed this season, he has 14 goals and 16 assists this season. Jamie Langenbrunner is putting up the numbers as well with 14 goals and 14 assists. Travis Zajac has also looked good with 8 goals and 11 assists. The Islanders can not afford to ignore them either.
  5. Martin Brodeur is Martin Brodeur. I know it's not a substantial reason, but he's been keeping the Devils in games, winning games, and putting up big numbers doing so.
Rick DiPietro is hot and the Islanders will likely come out guns a-blazing as the lost their last game 2-0 to the Senators in Ottawa. The Devils will need to stifle them as soon as possible, and try to break Rick DiPietro early and often. If DiPietro starts making huge saves, this will lead to momentum which in turn can and will lead to goals. Alexei Yashin had a 10 game point streak broken in that Ottawa game, wherein he put up 5 goals and 9 assists. He'll be looking to start something again. Jason Blake has 21 goals this season, he has been a monster for the Islanders; leading the team with 38 points. The Devils defense will need to stay aware of those two among others.

The fact that the Islanders have been hot at home and against the Devils is indeed disheartening. However, the Devils are coming off a productive win and I listed 5 reasons why the Devils should not be counted out if not be considered to be the favorites. It should be a good game and the last one for New Jersey in this year. GO DEVILS!


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