Outside of individual accomplishments, there’s not much left for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils to play for in the final two games of the season.
The Islanders, though, will have a chance to accomplish something they haven’t done in over 30 years Friday night when the teams meet at the Prudential Center.
After winning just eight of 24 meetings against the Devils from 2008-2012, the Islanders took three of five last season for a rare series win.
Two of those victories came on the road and New York followed with a 4-3 shootout win Oct. 4 in its season opener. That gives the Islanders an opportunity to win four consecutive games in New Jersey for the first time since a seven-game run Oct. 28, 1982-March 13, 1984, in the first seven matchups there after the Devils moved from Colorado.
Still, even that would be small consolation for a team that had postseason aspirations after a five-year playoff drought ended in 2013 with a spirited first-round loss to top-seeded Pittsburgh.
A 2-13-2 stretch from early November into December essentially ended any chance the Islanders (32-37-11) had at a second straight trip to the playoffs, and the final blow was a knee injury sustained by captain John Tavares at the Sochi Olympics.
That continued a string of injuries for New York, which had 10 rookies in its lineup Thursday in a 2-0 victory at Montreal. Two of those first-year players scored – Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson – and veteran Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves to help the Islanders end a three-game losing streak overall and improve to 15-5-2 in their last 22 on the road.
"We outworked them," winger Matt Martin said. "They played (Wednesday) night and we were a little fresher than them and we had some young legs in the lineup."
With Nabokov facing the Canadiens, Anders Nilsson is likely to be back in net Friday. Nilsson has performed very well in three career starts against the Devils, winning two while posting a 0.98 goals-against average and his only shutout.
The Devils (34-29-17), who were in contention until Columbus and Detroit clinched Wednesday, will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1985-87.
Among the reasons why they will sit out the postseason again was an inability to win shootouts. New Jersey dropped to 0-12 in shootouts this season with a 2-1 defeat at Ottawa on Thursday and has lost 16 straight in the tiebreaker dating to last year.
"It’s frustrating, no question about it," forward Jaromir Jagr said. "(The shootout) probably cost us the playoffs, but you’ve got no other choice but to work on it."
The loss overshadowed another outstanding performance by Cory Schneider, who made 31 saves and allowed one goal for the fourth start in a row. He’s been brilliant in his first season in New Jersey, ranking among the league leaders with a 1.97 GAA.
The Devils are 2-0-2 against the Islanders this season, with both losses coming in shootouts.