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28-29-9

Devils-Islanders Preview

AP - Sports

It's been more than three months since the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders faced off.

The Atlantic Division rivals will see plenty of each other over the next week.

The Devils go for their fourth straight victory at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday when the Islanders try to put together a rare set of back-to-back wins in the first of three consecutive games against New Jersey.

When these clubs take the ice, it will be their first meeting since splitting a home-and-home set Nov. 25 and 26 – each game won by the road team. The Devils (36-23-5) will try to continue that trend after moving one point ahead of seventh-place Ottawa and tying Philadelphia with 77 points after Friday's 5-0 victory at Washington.

Zach Parise's second career hat trick helped New Jersey snap a season high-tying four-game skid, but the left wing was helped off the ice in the second period after taking a stick to the face by Brooks Laich. Parise - whose performance moved him past Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson to become the team leader with 27 goals - returned briefly in the third period after getting tested for a concussion.

"He's the heartbeat of our team,'' said coach Peter DeBoer, whose club hosts the New York Rangers on Tuesday before opening a home-and-home set with the Islanders on Thursday in Newark. "He's a key piece, obviously. And he's a tough kid. He doesn't go down very often.''

Parise practiced Saturday and is expected to be in uniform Sunday on a line with rookie Adam Henrique – who has a team-high three points against the Islanders in 2011-12 – and Kovalchuk, who has a club-best 62 points overall.

The Devils, 13-3-2 in their last 18 road games, might give Martin Brodeur another game to rest following Johan Hedberg's 23-save shutout Friday.

Hedberg turned aside the same number of shots in a 1-0 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 25. Petr Sykora, who beat Al Montoya for the lone goal in that contest, will play his 1,000th career game Sunday for the Devils.

New Jersey has won three in a row on Long Island since a 2-0 loss Nov. 26, 2010.

The Islanders (27-29-9) return home after avoiding a winless four-game trip with Saturday's 3-2 victory over Boston.

John Tavares' third-period tip-in of a Matt Moulson shot was the eventual game-winner for the Islanders, currently 13th in the East with 63 points.

"If you look at the standings, a lot of people were probably not giving us a chance,'' coach Jack Capuano said following the victory over the second-place Bruins.

The Islanders have not won two in a row since Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, but that could change on Sunday if Evgeni Nabokov delivers another solid performance in net. After yielding 12 goals while losing his previous three starts, Nabokov stopped 32 shots in Boston.

Nabokov is 7-3-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average in his last 10 home starts.

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