Devils-Islanders Preview


The New York Islanders haven't lost all hope for their season, sitting nine points out of a potential playoff spot as they get set to return from the Christmas break.

An injury to John Tavares certainly puts a damper on things.

The Islanders will try to win consecutive games for only the second time, though it appears their captain won't be available for a matchup with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

Tavares missed the team's first practice since the holiday breather, sitting out Friday with a lower-body injury. The Islanders' official Twitter feed said Saturday he will miss this game, though the injury is reportedly not serious.

Tavares notched his team-leading 39th point Monday with an assist to help New York (11-20-7) to a 3-0 victory over Detroit. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for his 56th career shutout and first this season, and the Islanders got all their goals in the first period.

"I thought our guys started on time. We got the three goals, but we did some good things out there," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We battled ... In the end, it's the will to compete and I thought we did."

Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Casey Cizikas scored for New York, which has won only three of its last 17 games (3-10-4) and remains abysmal on the power play with only two advantage goals in the last seven.

"I thought we had an extra gear tonight. They might have come out flat, but we did a good job to get on 'em," Okposo said.

Nabokov improved to 2-1-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for 11 games. He was 5-5-3 with a 3.30 GAA prior to being hurt early in the first period of a 5-4 shootout win over the Red Wings on Nov. 16.

He stopped 26 of 29 shots at New Jersey in the season opener on Oct. 4 before the Islanders went on to win 4-3 in a shootout. That win was the fourth in the last five meetings for New York, which scored four goals or more in three of those victories.

The Islanders, who endured a 10-game losing streak earlier this season, won back-to-back games against Ottawa and Boston from Nov. 1-2.

The Devils (15-16-8), who are sitting just outside the current postseason cutoff with 38 points, returned from the break Friday with a 2-1 shootout loss against Columbus that was their second straight following a 3-0-1 stretch.

Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of 30 shots and Adam Henrique scored in the third period for New Jersey, which faces a daunting two-game stretch after this matchup with games against Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh and West-leading Chicago.

"I think our goalie gave us a chance tonight to hang around and get our legs," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "I feel fortunate we got a point. Our goaltender gave us a chance to get a point tonight and we have to do better tomorrow night."

Ryan Clowe returned to the Devils' lineup after missing 31 games with post-concussion symptoms following an elbow by Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba on Oct. 13.

"He's worked really hard at keeping himself and getting himself back into good shape," DeBoer said after the morning skate.