(SportsNetwork.com) – The struggling New York Islanders hope a few days of
rest can help them get back on track when they visit the New Jersey Devils on
The Islanders are on their longest losing streak of the season and the 0-4
stretch has knocked them out of first place in the Metropolitan Division,
where the New York Rangers now hold a five-point lead for the top spot. The
Rangers, who also hold three games in hand over the Isles, play Saturday
evening at Carolina.
Although the Islanders are ranked third in the NHL this season with 2.99 goals
per game, the offense has dried up during the current skid. New York has
scored just once in each game during the slide and has been outscored by a
combined 11-4 margin along the way.
“Teams go through it every year,” said captain John Tavares. “There can’t be
any panic, we believe in who we are as a team, the way we play and the skill
we have in here. We have to find a way to get a little grittier and find a way
to earn it and pay the price a little more.”
The Isles, who also are just two points ahead of Pittsburgh and Washington in
the Metro standings, last played on Tuesday when they were handed a 4-1
setback by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks led 4-0 before Nikolay Kulemin provided the Isles’ only goal at
5:29 of the third period. Michal Neuvirth allowed all four goals on 30 shots
in the loss.
“Today, the first half of the game was just not good at all,” said Tavares.
“That’s not who we are. It was just soft.”
New York could get some help from the return of a couple injured players on
Saturday. No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Nick Leddy returned
to practice this week and both players are expected to be in the lineup
Halak missed the last two games with a lower-body injury and is expected to
start this evening. Leddy, meanwhile, has missed all four games during New
York’s current slide with an upper-body issue.
The Isles are 20-13-4 as the guest this season and have won their last five
road games versus the Devils. New York has claimed five straight and eight of
10 overall in this series.
However, New Jersey comes into Saturday riding a three-game win streak after
picking up a 3-1 decision Friday night in Buffalo.
Steve Bernier scored two goals to reach 100 in his career and backup netminder
Keith Kinkaid made 28 saves for the Devils, who improved to 10-3-2 in their
last 15 games.
Despite the surge, New Jersey still finds itself 10 points out of a postseason
spot in the East and is likely headed for a third straight spring out of the
“We’ve gotta keep going here and finish the season strong,” Kinkaid said.
New Jersey played without leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri and veteran
Patrik Elias. Cammalleri sat out against the Sabres because of an illness,
while Elias missed a third consecutive game due to back spasms.
Cory Schneider will be back in net tonight for the Devils. The club’s No. 1
goaltender is 1-1-1 with a 1.31 goals against average in his career against
Halak is 6-4-1 with a 2.31 GAA in 13 lifetime appearances versus the Devils.