Devils Gameday Preview: New York Islanders

The New Jersey Devils are coming off an impressive 7-3 victory over the Florida Panthers. They won their past two games, and will be looking to win their third in a row for the first time this season. Tonight, they will host the New York Islanders, who are right below the Devils in the standings with 12 points.

The last time these two teams met was on May 8, 2021. The Devils lost by a score of 5-1, and it was Brock Nelson who scored two quick goals in the second period. Kyle Palmieri got the puck past Mackenzie Blackwood in the third period, and the lone Devils’ scorer was Andreas Johnsson. Let’s break down some storylines for the Islanders and Devils.

3 Storylines: New York Islanders (5-3-2)

Islanders Looking to Get Back in the Win Column

The Islanders suffered a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night, which ended their seven-game point streak. Don’t let their spot in the standings fool you; this is a competitive team who is ready to jump back into the win column. They did not have a morning skate, but it is expected that Ilya Sorokin will be in net. The Islanders won six out of eight last season against the Devils, including three games at Prudential Center. It will be a tough test for New Jersey who will have to battle for their two points tonight.

Kyle Palmieri, Andy Greene and Zach Parise Return to Prudential Center

Tonight will be a homecoming for a few players on the visitors bench. Forward Zach Parise will be returning for the first time as a member of the Islanders. He has two assists in 10 games and has been averaging 12 minutes of ice time. Palmieri signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Islanders on Sept. 1, 2021, and has five assists on the season.

Kyle Palmieri New York Islanders
Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Longtime Devil Andy Greene is part of the third defensive pairing alongside Noah Dobson. Believe it or not, tonight will be his 999th career NHL game. After yesterday’s practice, Mike Morreale asked head coach Barry Trotz if it surprises him that Greene, who was undrafted, can have the impact he has had in the NHL.

Related: New York Islanders Acquire Kyle Palmieri & Travis Zajac From Devils

“Guys like Andy [Greene] that play the way he does they do it with such subtly,” said coach Trotz. “I think sometimes when you’re in scouting you look at Andy Greene and he is not overly big, he is not overly fast, there is probably nothing physically that stands out about him. When you watch the game really closely or coach a player like that, you see he never makes a bad decision. He makes poised plays, he breaks up and cleans up everyone’s messes in terms of handling the puck and decisions. When you coach these kinds of guys, and they have the impact on the game that they do it is really delightful.”

Brock Nelson Leads the Team

The 2021-22 campaign marks Nelson’s ninth season with the Islanders, and the 30-year-old center is off to a great start. In the first 10 games, he has has scored seven goals, and has nine points, which leads the team. On Nov. 4, he scored a hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens and finished the game with four goals.

New York Islanders' Brock Nelson
New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, FIle)

“It’s nice to chip in and get a couple,” Nelson said after the team’s victory over the Canadiens. “I thought our line played well. A byproduct of a couple of nice plays. [Palmieri] had a nice backhand touch on the first one. A couple of good plays from [Beauvillier] too. It’s always nice to have a big night and when your line is contributing and all a factor, it feels good.”

3 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (6-3-2)

Can the Devils Keep the Momentum

The Devils played arguably their best game of the season on Tuesday night. Special teams shined, and 13 different players made it onto the scoreboard. The team was off yesterday, and had a morning skate today at Prudential Center. New Jersey will look to continue their performance from Tuesday against a rival who they historically struggle against.

“We played them [Islanders] hard last year, ” said head coach Lindy Ruff. We had one game on the Island that I didn’t like, but we bounced back with a shutout in our building. It is a hard game. They are good with their structure. They don’t hand you a lot of really good opportunities, you have to earn them. If you get them down by a couple you can force them a little bit out of their game, because you have to throw some risk in it. They are relying on you to become impatient, and we have to guard against that.”

Anticipate the Return of Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton was spotted on the ice at Prudential Center for the Devils’ morning skate. If fans remember, he was also on the ice for the Devils’ morning skate prior to their game against the Florida Panthers. Coach Ruff told media after practice that he anticipates Hamilton will play tonight alongside Ryan Graves.

New Jersey may have won their past two games without Hamilton, but overall the team is better with him out there on the ice. Even though the Devils scored twice on the power play on Tuesday, it should not minimize how important he is on the first power-play unit. The 6-foot-6 defenseman has six points in eight games.

“It’s really fun now that Dougie [Hamilton] is back in practice up top there,” said forward Alexander Holtz about the power play. “We are getting chemistry going all the time, and it feels like it’s getting better every time.”

Devils Looking For Their Third Consecutive Win

For the first time this season the Devils have the opportunity to put together a three-game winning streak. Blackwood will be the starting goaltender, and is looking for his second win of the season. Johnsson will look to continue his comeback season, and fans will be waiting to see if Holtz can get his first goal of the season tonight.

Andreas Johnsson New Jersey Devils
Andreas Johnsson, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The key to their success will be to keep their play simple and jump on rebound opportunities. Like the Panthers, the Islanders will make the Devils pay for their mistakes. New Jersey will need to play to their system and stay out of the penalty box. On Tuesday night, the Devils took a penalty 50 seconds into the game. Discipline will be key, especially when the opponent’s power play consists of Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey.

Related: Devils Should Bet on Johnsson Returning to Form

Players to Watch

New Jersey Devils: Pavel Zacha

Out of Pavel Zacha’s six goals, two of them have been scored on the power play. He is coming into tonight’s game tied for the team’s lead in goals with Johnsson. The 6-foot-3 forward has been a standout so far and this could be the start to the breakout season that Devils fans have been anxiously waiting for.

New York Islanders: Mathew Barzal

If you look back at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, you will notice that Zacha was selected sixth overall, while Mathew Barzal was selected by the Islanders with their 16th pick. For the past several seasons, Devils fans have been comparing the two forwards stating the team passed over superstar Barzal. The Islanders’ center has 252 points in 289 career NHL games. This season he seven points in 10 games, including points in his previous two games. It will be interesting to see him go against Zacha, who is having a great season in his own right.


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