THEME: SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
RECORDS: ISLANDERS, 4-2-1; DEVILS, 3-1-2
PLUSES: Both teams remain above the .500 mark. The two teams are tied for first in the Atlantic Division, each with seven games played.
MINUSES: Devils have slipped in their past two games — overtime loss to Islanders and 5-1 Saturday night defeat at Pittsburgh. The usually reliable defense has faltered. Isles backline still needs tightening.
EVEN: Moose Hedberg, who was excellent in losing a Shootout to Boston, gave up only one goal over three periods and overtime. He gets his second start on Sunday. Islanders will likely repeat with Evgeni Nobokov who has won all four of New York’s games.
CHALLENGE: For New Jersey, it’s simply a case of reversing a downward trend and giving Hedberg more protection than Marty Brodeur received against the Penguins. On the Isles’ side, coach Jack Capuano wants his skaters to continue developing their collective confidence.
TWO KEYS FOR EACH CLUB:
1. With Adam Henrique back in the lineup and Bobby Butler, the veteran right wing, recalled from Albany, coach Peter DeBoer must develop an effective second and third line.
2. An excess of defensemen provides DeBoer with an opportunity to try Peter Harrold who, so far, has not been used. Defense combos are a work in progress.
1. The imminent arrival of Lubomir Visnovsky on defense means that Cappy will be studying his current units and will drop the least effective Dman. That’s a neat luxury.
2. Michael Grabner’s speed drove the Devils to distraction as did the Isles splendid penalty-killing. Those factors will be decisive and — if positive — could be a big plus for New York.
1. John Tavares-Matt Moulson vs. Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk: Two of the NHL’s top duets always provide excellent viewing.
2. Moose Hedberg-Evgeni Nabokov: Nabby has played six out of seven games and could be tiring but still has been a game-stealer. The underrated Hedberg must continue his excellent pinch-hitting role in goal. Fans will be seeing two of the best.
MAVEN’S RAVIN‘: This shapes up as a genuine “turning-point” game. A victory for the home club would certify that the Isles are for real with no-kidding-around playoff designs. The Devils built a solid cushion with Adam Henrique out but now that the ace is back, they have lost momentum. Another loss would significantly diminish the cushion.