Thursday, January 04, 2007


Game: Islanders @ Devils, 3 of 8

The New York Islanders come to the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils.

Local TV: FSNY
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils Record Vs. Islanders: 1-1-0 Preview

The Devils are coming off a shootout loss to those damned New York Rangers, to take on the team they last beat prior to the Rangers game. The Islanders have lost their last four games, losing decisively to the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers in their last two games. This is not meant to say that the Islanders should be taken easily. The Devils really won their last game 1-0, with the second goal being an empty net goal that iced the game for NJ. The Islanders, for whatever reason, play NJ tough with goaltender Rick DiPietro making big stops, and forwards who can score (Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake) as well as punish the opponent (Aaron Asham, Chris Simon).

The Devils will still be without Colin White, according to Mark Everson of the New York Post. He is still out with a groin injury, but he has skated yesterday for the first time since the injury. The progress is good news. Fortunately, the Devils defense has performed well recently, thanks to Brad Lukowich stepping up his play on the first defensive pairing. They will need to perform well against a team that has given them fits up to and including the last game, despite that the Devils won their last meeting. It goes without saying, Martin Brodeur will also have to play really well - so he just needs to be himself.

Because the Islanders are struggling, it's up to the Devils offense to punish the Islanders quickly. In their last meeting, the Devils scored their only goal against DiPietro off a fluke. DiPietro played very well that night, so the Devils forwards will have to either have to set up a lot of screens with Brian Gionta or Travis Zajac setting up in the slot and hope for a deflection, or get DiPietro moving so he may get out of position and leave some holes open. They can not have the same problems getting into the Islanders' zone as they did against the Rangers on Tuesday, otherwise they will have to get odd-man rushes (relying on the defense, which isn't such a bad idea) or some lucky breaks to have any offense. That's not a good idea as the Islanders are not a slow team and accomplishing what I mentioned is easier said than done.

Tom Lycan at the Devils Due blog went to last night's game and had some good comments about the game. He noted my description of the Christmas Tree formation from Tuesday and recommends setting someone up behind the net or in front for deflections. I think having someone hang around the slot is generally good idea, the problem is the Devils getting anything set up in their zone from the start. So I thought about it and I have the idea that Devils should pound the Islanders' left wing on the rush. The Islanders are lacking in natural left wings and if the Devils carry the puck that way, that will force defenders to go towards that area. At that point, the Devils can move the puck around behind the net, begin a cycle, or look to pass at the point or in the center of the zone. I think the Devils should try it tonight and see how much success they have with it.

In any case, the Devils will need to come out ready to play. The Islanders certainly want to break their losing streak and begin to move up in the Atlantic Division against a division rival like the Devils. A win tonight for NJ would go a long way in increasing (or maintaining, if the Rangers beat Philadelphia tonight) their lead in the division. My predicted lines are the same as the ones used against the Rangers, with Colin White still out due to injury.

HALFWAY POINT: Tonight's game will be the 40th game of the Devils' season. While it's not the official halfway point, Rich Chere has an extensive review of the first half of this season for the Devils in today's Star Ledger. In short, it's a lot better than it was this point last season.


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