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1/23-- Devils Game Preview

By: Brian Deakyne

New Jersey Devils (33-15-1) at New York Islanders (23-20-8)

Previous Meetings: In the first meeting between the Devils and Islanders at the Prudential center on November 6th, it was Brian Rolston who hit a milestone: his 100th career goal as a New Jersey Devil, in a 2-1 Devils win over the Islanders. Yann Danis stopped 23 shots to put away his former team. Later that month, the Devils would put away the Islanders 6-1, again, at the Prudential center. Rolston and Patrik Elias would both score two goals and add an assist, as Jersey's Team easily took care of the boys from Long Island. However, last Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, the tides turned on New Jersey. Rick DiPietro and the Islanders blanked the Devils 4-0, with Matt Moulson scoring twice, and DiPietro earning his 15th career shutout.

How They've Fared: Devils: For one of the few times this season, the New Jersey Devils are in the midst of a slump, dropping four of their last five games. Last night, New Jersey was stopped by the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1, as two former players, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were involved in the beat down. Despite the struggle, the Devils are still sitting atop the Atlantic Division, and are currently 2nd in the conference, tied with the Buffalo Sabres with 67 points.

How They've Fared: Islanders: The Islanders, opposite of the Devils, are in the middle of a hot-streak, winning five of their last six, including a thumping of the boys from Jersey last Saturday. With a record of 23-20-8, New York is currently sitting in the highly coveted 8th spot in the conference, and will look to continue to win to move up in the elite east. Tied with the seventh-place Bruins and trailing the sixth-place Rangers by just a point, every game--and win--from here-on-out is crucial for the Islanders, particularly divisional games.

Who to Watch: Devils: For New Jersey, it will be interesting to see who steps up as a play maker in this game. Coming off a game where they had chances but couldn't bury any of them, I look for Jamie Langenbrunner to have a big game at Nassau Coliseum. Zach Parise will play as he always does, but he's going to need help from the Devils captain to halt any chance of a repeat from last Saturday.

Who to Watch: Islanders: On the other hand, if the Islanders want any chance at proving that last Saturday's beat down of New Jersey wasn't a fluke, Rick DiPietro will have to be magnificent again. The Devils are going to be flying all over the ice, coming off a disappointing loss against Montreal, so DiPietro will have to be on top of his game. When he is on his game, New York can be a tough team to beat--but the question of whether he can do it on a night in-night out basis is up in the air.

Bottom Line: Every game for the remainder of the season will have meaning for the Islanders, as they are going to fight for playoff position--and even a spot--until April. On New Jersey's side, they did themselves a big favor by dominating early in the season, but recent Devils' teams have been noted for falling apart down the stretch. Championship-worthy beat the teams they should, and the Devils should beat the Islanders.

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