While the New Jersey Devils’ current late-season surge doesn’t
approach their lengthy sprint to the finish in 2010-11, this one
may end up putting them in the playoffs.
The Devils look to continue solidifying their grip on a
postseason berth as they seek a sweep of their home-and-home series
with the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday
New Jersey (38-24-5) has won two in a row and three of four
since a four-game skid, giving it a strong hold on one of the final
playoff spots in the East. It’s in sixth place and within striking
distance of the fourth spot and home-ice advantage in the first
Despite going 28-10-3 in their final 41 games last season, the
Devils couldn’t overcome their poor first half and missed the
postseason for the first time since 1996.
Last season’s run was powered offensively in large part by Ilya
Kovalchuk, and the star forward has been producing again this
season. He recorded a hat trick in a 5-1 rout of the Islanders on
Thursday, giving him 10 goals and 17 assists in his last 19 games –
during which the Devils have gone 12-5-2.
Kovalchuk has four goals in his last two games after not scoring
one in the previous nine, though he did record six assists in those
“He’s been playing really well,” said Martin Brodeur, who made
29 saves. ”The last game and today kind of makes up for the fact
he hadn’t been scoring much. The way he was carrying the puck, the
way he was skating and shooting, that’s what we need, for him to be
as good as he can every night. He’s been a force for us.”
Thursday’s victory gave the Devils 38 wins and 81 points,
matching last season’s totals.
“I came here to score goals and make plays for my team to try
and make my team win,” said Kovalchuk, who has 29 goals after
recording his second hat trick in just over three weeks.
Kovalchuk helped New Jersey outscore New York 3-0 in the third
period after the Islanders outshot the Devils 19-11 in the first
two. Andy MacDonald scored New York’s only goal.
“We had some guys, without mentioning names, you watch the game,
that quite frankly were invisible,” said coach Jack Capuano, who
team was trying to win three in a row for the first time since Jan.
The Islanders (28-30-9) will be facing the Devils for the third
straight time, having beaten them 1-0 at home Sunday behind 24
saves from Anders Nilsson. The season series is tied at 2-2-0, with
each team winning once at home and on the road.
Evgeni Nabokov struggled Thursday, making 15 saves, and it’s
uncertain whether he’ll play in his 600th career game Saturday.
Along with Kovalchuk, left wing Patrik Elias has been hot for
the Devils with four goals and three assists in his last five games
after recording one of each Thursday.
David Clarkson has a goal in each of his last two contests,
while Zach Parise has recorded five goals and three assists in his
Brodeur has given up one goal in each of his previous three
New York has gone 0 for 8 on the power play in its two
consecutive games against New Jersey and 2 for its last 26