Tonight, the New Jersey Devils are facing the New York Islanders for the first time this season at UBS Arena. Head coach Lindy Ruff‘s team will look to win consecutive games and officially turn the page after a bleak start to the 2022-23 season.
The last meeting between these two teams was on April 3, 2022. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s hat trick propelled the Islanders to a 4-3 victory and former Devils goaltender Cory Schneider earned his first NHL win in more than two seasons. The Devils’ all-time record against the Islanders is 94-129-22-16, and the Devils have suffered more losses against them than any other opponent in the league.
Setting the Stage
The Devils did not hold a morning skate this morning in Elmont, NY. Coach Ruff will have media availability at 5:30 P.M. tonight.
New Jersey’s Lineup From Wednesday’s Practice:
Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt
Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Dawson Mercer
Tomas Tatar – Erik Haula – Miles Wood
Nathan Bastian – Michael McLeod – Alexander Holtz
Jonas Siegenthaler – Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves – John Marino
Brendan Smith – Damon Severson
Mackenzie Blackwood / Vitek Vanecek
New York’s Morning Skate Lineup:
Per Andrew Gross, Islanders head coach Lane Lambert did not confirm tonight’s line combinations and would not confirm if Ilya Sorokin is starting in net. Below are the line combinations and defensive pairings from their game on Tuesday night.
Zach Parise – Mathew Barzal – Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Anthony Beauvillier
Josh Bailey – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov – Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Robin Salo – Scott Mayfield
How to Watch and Listen
Tonight’s 7:30 P.M. broadcast will be exclusively on ESPN+. Play-by-Play announcer Mike Monaco will have the call alongside Kevin Weekes. As always, fans can listen to tonight’s contest on the Devils Hockey Network.
2 Storylines: New York Islanders (2-1-0)
Wahlstrom Off to a Hot Start
Devils fans became very familiar with Wahlstrom late last season thanks to his hit on Jack Hughes in early April. The hit resulted in a low-grade MCL sprain, which kept the Devils star sidelined for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Wahlstrom finished last season with 24 points (13 goals, 11, assists) in 73 games. This season he is off to a strong start with four points in two games. He has been playing on the third line with Bailey and Pageau, and after the team’s victory on Tuesday, he talked about his two-goal performance.
“I like to shoot from everywhere, I try to catch the goalie off guard,” Wahlstrom said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s something I always worked on when I was younger, but you know it’s good battles. Lee on my first goal was the one who really picked the guy and Brock did all the work on the faceoff and I just kind of leaned into my shot.”
Islanders Look to Extend Winning Streak
The Islanders dropped their first game of the season but have since found their rhythm beating the Anaheim Ducks by an impressive score of 7-1 and the San Jose Sharks by a final score of 5-2. They will look to improve their winning streak tonight in front of their home fans.
As focused as the team is to finish their homestead with a win, former Devils forward Parise says it’s about the team continuing to improve.
“We’d love to [get the win], especially a divisional opponent, always important, but I think more importantly continue to get better at what we’re trying to improve at and play the right way,” he said. “Get the power play going and keeping our special teams good. Just get everything going in the right direction.”
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (1-2-0)
Can New Jersey Build Off Tuesday’s Victory?
Can New Jersey build off its victory over Anaheim? It’s the million-dollar question entering tonight’s contest as things remain tense for the Devils and their head coach. After the team’s Saturday loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Haula talked about their lack of consistency saying it’s too up and down. It’s an area of concern that goes back to last season as the last time the Devils won two consecutive games was April 9 and April 12 when they beat the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars to start their last road trip of the season.
How Many Minutes Will Alexander Holtz Play?
One of the biggest storylines over the past couple of games is the amount of ice time for Ruff’s players. Holtz has played the following minutes through the team’s first three games.
Versus Philadelphia Flyers: 14:36
Versus Detroit Red Wings: 9:20
Versus Anaheim Ducks: 5:55
The 20-year-old started the season on the third line with Tatar and Boqvist, played with Sharangoivch and McLeod on the fourth line against Detroit, and was reunited with Palat and Hischier on Tuesday night. Ruff explained the reason behind Holtz’s reduced ice time against the Ducks stating, “I went down to three lines, and put it on our veterans. I really just felt that we would go to three lines and use McLeod and Bastian for killing penalties.”
At this juncture, the focus is getting wins, and if the coaching staff continues to lean on their veterans, will it be a matter of time before Holtz is assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League? To be determined.
Players to Watch
New Jersey Devils: Jesper Bratt
Bratt has picked up right where he left off last spring. He currently leads the team with five points in three games. He is still waiting on his first goal of the 2022-23 season but has been electric this past week. When I looked into this all-time stats against the Islanders, I was surprised to see him with only one goal in sixteen meetings. Out of all their Metropolitan Division rivals, he has struggled to light the lamp, the most against the Islanders.
New York Islanders: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
The 29-year-old plays extremely well against the Devils. Not only did he score a hat trick in their last meeting, but he also has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 28 career games. With his historic success and Wahlstrom’s hot start, the Islanders’ second line could prove to be problematic for the Devils’ defensemen.