Devils-Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders haven’t lost all hope for their season,

sitting nine points out of a potential playoff spot as they get set

to return from the Christmas break.

An injury to John Tavares certainly puts a damper on things.

The Islanders will try to win consecutive games for only the

second time, though it appears their captain won’t be available for

a matchup with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Tavares missed the team’s first practice since the holiday

breather, sitting out Friday with a lower-body injury. The

Islanders’ official Twitter feed said Saturday he will miss this

game, though the injury is reportedly not serious.

Tavares notched his team-leading 39th point Monday with an

assist to help New York (11-20-7) to a 3-0 victory over Detroit.

Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for his 56th career shutout and first

this season, and the Islanders got all their goals in the first

period.

“I thought our guys started on time. We got the three goals, but

we did some good things out there,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano

said. “We battled … In the end, it’s the will to compete and I

thought we did.”

Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Casey Cizikas scored for New York,

which has won only three of its last 17 games (3-10-4) and remains

abysmal on the power play with only two advantage goals in the last

seven.

“I thought we had an extra gear tonight. They might have come

out flat, but we did a good job to get on ’em,” Okposo said.

Nabokov improved to 2-1-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average

since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for 11

games. He was 5-5-3 with a 3.30 GAA prior to being hurt early in

the first period of a 5-4 shootout win over the Red Wings on Nov.

16.

He stopped 26 of 29 shots at New Jersey in the season opener on

Oct. 4 before the Islanders went on to win 4-3 in a shootout. That

win was the fourth in the last five meetings for New York, which

scored four goals or more in three of those victories.

The Islanders, who endured a 10-game losing streak earlier this

season, won back-to-back games against Ottawa and Boston from Nov.

1-2.

The Devils (15-16-8), who are sitting just outside the current

postseason cutoff with 38 points, returned from the break Friday

with a 2-1 shootout loss against Columbus that was their second

straight following a 3-0-1 stretch.

Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of 30 shots and Adam Henrique scored

in the third period for New Jersey, which faces a daunting two-game

stretch after this matchup with games against Eastern

Conference-leading Pittsburgh and West-leading Chicago.

“I think our goalie gave us a chance tonight to hang around and

get our legs,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. “I feel fortunate we

got a point. Our goaltender gave us a chance to get a point tonight

and we have to do better tomorrow night.”

Ryan Clowe returned to the Devils’ lineup after missing 31 games

with post-concussion symptoms following an elbow by Winnipeg’s

Jacob Trouba on Oct. 13.

“He’s worked really hard at keeping himself and getting himself

back into good shape,” DeBoer said after the morning skate.