Islanders-Devils Preview

In what had been a foregone conclusion for months, the New York

Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention the last time

they took the ice.

The New Jersey Devils look like they’ll be joining them.

A nine-week hot streak gave the Devils a surprising chance to

make the postseason, but now-slumping New Jersey has little hope

left of securing a postseason berth as it hosts the Islanders on

Wednesday night.

The Devils (34-36-5) managed to move within six points of the

final Eastern Conference playoff spot March 15 with an incredible

23-3-2 run. New Jersey had been 27 points out of eighth place Jan.

8, but the Devils’ poor play throughout the first half meant they

couldn’t afford to go into a slide.

They’ve done just that in the last six games, going 1-4-1 to

drop to the brink of elimination.

“The last five or six games has put us into a big uphill battle,

again,” forward Patrik Elias said after a 2-0 loss to Buffalo on

Saturday.

New Jersey’s playoff push was aided by three games against the

Islanders (29-35-12) since the middle of January. The Devils won

all of them, scoring at least three goals in each contest.

They haven’t been nearly as prolific offensively of late.

New Jersey, which last missed the postseason in 1996, has been

shut out in its last two games and three times in the previous

five. The Devils have gone 173 minutes, 55 seconds without a goal

and have managed two goals in their last five losses.

“Right now, we’re obviously having a tough time scoring, and

you’re not going to win a lot of hockey games that way,” Elias

said.

With Buffalo’s win over New Jersey on Saturday and the

Islanders’ 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, New York was eliminated from

postseason contention for the fourth straight year and fifth time

in six seasons.

Missing the playoffs wasn’t much of a surprise for the

Islanders, who opened the season 5-18-5 and were 20 points below

the postseason cutoff at the end of January.

“We’ve got a few games left and we’re going to play hard and see

what happens,” coach Jack Capuano said.

Like the Devils, the Islanders are sputtering on offense,

scoring once in each of the last two games. New York scored two

goals each time in losing its last three to New Jersey after

outscoring the Devils 7-1 in winning the first two meetings of the

season.

“These last six games are still important,” said Rick DiPietro,

who stopped 18 shots Saturday in making his second start after

missing 20 games with broken facial bones. “It’s important we keep

playing and getting better. You just want to fast forward to

October with everyone healthy.”

DiPietro has been in net for only one game of the season series

with New Jersey, stopping 29 shots in a 2-0 win Nov. 26. He has

gone 6-2-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average and three shutouts in

his last eight matchups with the Devils.

Martin Brodeur, who has posted a 1.65 GAA and two shutouts while

starting every game of his team’s six-game slump, has recorded a

1.92 GAA in winning his last three starts against the

Islanders.