NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, October 4th
(All times Eastern)
New York Islanders (0-0-0) at New Jersey Devils (0-1-0), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders are out to prove themselves
playoff worthy once again in 2013-14, and the club hopes to get its new season
off to a strong start when it visits the rival New Jersey Devils in Friday's
Metropolitan Division clash at Prudential Center.
Thanks in large part to the contributions of the ever-improving John Tavares,
the Islanders ended a five-season playoff drought last spring. Although the
Islanders bowed out to the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Penguins in six games,
extending the franchise's streak of losing playoff series to seven, there
seems to be good things on the horizon.
After an 81-point season in 2011-12, Tavares continued to make strides in 2013
and the centerman wound up as one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy in
the lockout-shortened campaign. The 22-year-old Tavares recorded a career-best
31 goals in 2011-12, but he was even more dangerous last season when he
tallied 28 times in just 48 contests. The first overall pick of the 2009 draft
also has a knack for making those around him better and nobody knows that more
than left winger Matt Moulson, who had 30 or more goals in his first three
years playing to the left of Tavares and had 44 points (15G, 29A) in 47 games
Tavares has an added responsibility this season, as he takes over the captain
role from defenseman Mark Streit, who left over the offseason to sign with
The Isles opted not to re-sign right winger Brad Boyes after he notched 10
goals and 25 assists while primarily playing on the top line in 2013. New York
hopes Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the
Isles this summer, can be even more productive playing a secondary scoring
role for New York.
New York head coach Jack Capuano will not have physical forward Cal
Clutterbuck at his disposal in the opener, as the former Minnesota Wild pest
will miss at least the first month of the season after suffering a laceration
to his leg in the preseason. Clutterbuck was acquired for forward prospect
Nino Niederreiter in a summer trade with Minnesota, a move designed to make
the Isles a tougher team to play against.
To the surprise of very few people, the Islanders also used a compliance
buyout this offseason to wipe out Rick DiPietro's salary-cap hit. DiPietro was
a former No. 1 overall pick and signed an infamous 15-year, $67.5 million
contract with New York prior to the 2006-07 season. Of course, it was all
downhill after that as injuries and poor play derailed DiPietro's career and
the Isles were left with an albatross of a contract around their necks.
With the DiPietro fiasco in the past, the Isles head into 2013-14 with steady
veteran Evgeni Nabokov installed as the club's No. 1 netminder. Nabokov, 38,
had a terrific season with New York in 2013, going 23-11-7 with a 2.50 goals
against average, .910 save percentage and three shutouts and is ready to in
the season opener.
The Devils, meanwhile, will try to rebound from Thursday's season-opening loss
in Pittsburgh. New Jersey did little to prove it could get along offensively
without Ilya Kovalchuk, as the club was blanked in the 3-0 setback to the
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 27 shots sent his way by the Devils, who lost
their most dangerous offensive weapon when Kovalchuk announced his retirement
from the NHL this past summer.
Cory Schneider, who was acquired in a deal with Vancouver at the 2013 NHL
Entry Draft, made his Devils debut between the pipes and surrendered three
goals on 21 shots.
"They were the better team in the first period and that was the game," said
New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "If this was later in the season I think
we would have stood a chance of coming back, but we just didn't have anything
With Schneider getting the call on Thursday, Martin Brodeur had his NHL record
streak of starting 18 straight season openers in net broken, but the future
Hall of Fame netminder will make his first start of the campaign on Friday.
After Thursday's home opener, New Jersey will head out on a five-game road
trip, beginning with Monday's test in Edmonton.
The Islanders won three of five meetings against the Devils last season and
have taken two straight at the Prudential Center. The clubs have split the
last 10 meetings overall.
10/04 10:49:46 ET