Though the New Jersey Devils have enjoyed some early success on the road, they need to start winning at home.
With five of their next seven at the Prudential Center, the Devils can begin Saturday by halting their recent struggles against the New York Islanders.
Two nights after its four-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 home loss to lowly Columbus, New Jersey (5-4-1) bounced back to win 4-1 at Philadelphia on Thursday. Travis Zajac scored twice and Kyle Palmieri had a goal and two assists as the Devils improved to 4-1-0 on the road.
"Tribute to the guys, they’ve found ways to win," coach John Hynes said.
Despite their embrace of the challenges of the road, the Devils’ 1-3-1 mark at home is disconcerting. They’ve totaled seven goals – compared to 18 away from home – and been held to one in four home contests.
"Very disappointing," defenseman Andy Greene said.
The good news for New Jersey is that it has the opportunity to improve quickly at the Prudential Center. Following this game, the Devils head to Brooklyn for Tuesday’s rematch with the Islanders (6-2-2), then play the next three at home before visiting Chicago on Nov. 12 and returning to host Pittsburgh two days later.
The next two games, however, will likely be anything but easy.
New York looks to continue its strong start with a seventh consecutive victory over the Devils, who have managed to earn a point in four of the previous six meetings. The Islanders have also won six straight in Newark.
New York salvaged a point in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina, but blowing a 2-1 third-period lead didn’t sit well with some of its players.
"You’re not going to win every night but we have to bring a better effort,” said center Frans Nielsen, who has three goals in the last two games. ”Every point is huge.
"We were beating ourselves with turnovers. The good thing about hockey is when you lose a game, there’s a new one two days later. We have to forget about this one quickly."
The Islanders killed off both penalties Thursday to make them 23 for 23 in the last seven games. New York has killed a league-leading 91.7 percent of its short-handed situations after ranking 26th at 78 percent last season.
New Jersey has gone 1 for 12 on the power play in the last six against the Islanders and 0 for 11 during its six-game home skid in the series.
Jaroslav Halak has won four straight against the Devils and owns a 1.14 goals-against average with two shutouts in his last six matchups.
Teammate John Tavares has been held without a point in two games after posting at least one in the previous six. He has six goals and four assists in his last seven games – all victories – against New Jersey.
After spending parts of the past four seasons with New Jersey, Marek Zidlicky returns in his first with the Islanders.
All of Zajac’s four goals and three assists have come in his last five games.