Devils-Islanders Preview

The New Jersey Devils have been one of the league’s stingiest

teams during their fast start, and that’s certainly been the case

when they’ve made the short trip east.

Eastern-Conference leading New Jersey looks to take three of

four from the Islanders on Saturday night when the Atlantic

Division teams meet for the third time in Uniondale.

After giving up a total of five goals during their five-game

winning streak, the Devils allowed seven in a three-period stretch

spanning a 4-2 loss to Carolina on Sunday and a 3-1 first-period

deficit against Philadelphia on Friday.

Still, New Jersey (9-2-3) found a way to pull out its sixth win

in seven games, with David Clarkson providing the go-ahead goal in

the third period of a 5-3 victory over the Flyers.

Clarkson has been one of the NHL’s top scorers with 10 goals in

14 games. He’s also scored four goals in his last five games versus

the Islanders.

“I don’t know what it is, but I just keep going to the goal and

eventually I’m going to get a chance to score,” said Clarkson. “A

lot of it is just being in the right area.”

Steve Bernier has just four goals on the season, but three have

come in the last two against the Islanders. He had a two-goal

effort in a 3-0 win at New York on Feb. 3.

While Ilya Kovalchuk has three goals and nine points in his last

five games, he has only one assist in this series.

The Devils will try to build off their season-high goal total

against a New York team that ranks near the bottom of the league in

goals allowed (3.54 per game).

New Jersey is expected to face Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov,

who has allowed fewer than three goals in only three of 11 starts.

Nabokov has lost eight of 11 career starts against New Jersey with

a 3.34 goals-against average.

In addition to tightening their defense, the last-place

Islanders (5-7-1) will have to find a way to generate some offense

after totaling one goal in their two home losses against the

Devils. New York, which has been held to seven goals in losing six

of its last seven at home to New Jersey (1-5-1), managed a

season-low 19 shots in a 2-1 loss in the season opener Jan. 17, and

posted its second-lowest with 22 on Feb. 3.

New York, though, hopes to carry in some momentum following a

seven-goal outburst in its last two games.

Brad Boyes, Colin McDonald and John Tavares each scored as the

Islanders snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win

over the New York Rangers on Thursday.

“We found a way to handle adversity,” Tavares said. “We really

challenged ourselves.”

Tavares has been the team’s hottest player and carries a

four-game goal-scoring streak into this contest. He also had two

goals and an assists to lead New York to a 5-4 overtime victory at

New Jersey on Jan. 31.

While Martin Brodeur started in the first two games against New

York, backup Johan Hedberg earned the shutout in the last

meeting.

Hedberg, who is 2-0-1 with a 0.65 GAA in three starts, could get

another shot with the Devils playing games on back-to-back

nights.

New Jersey has a 10-2-1 record in the last 13 meetings.