The New Jersey Devils opened this lockout-shortened season by continuing their success against the New York Islanders.
The Islanders have a chance to change that with two meetings in the next four days and their impressive play on special teams could be key.
The Devils seek their 11th win in 13 home meetings against their Atlantic Division rivals on Thursday night.
These teams faced off in the season opener at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 19, and New Jersey (3-0-2) won 2-1 for its fourth straight victory in the series and ninth in 11 attempts.
The Devils are 10-2-0 in the last 12 home matchups against New York (3-2-1), taking the most recent game there 3-1 on April 3.
New Jersey, which visits Pittsburgh on Saturday and Long Island the next day, opened this stretch of four of five on the road Sunday with a 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal before falling 2-1 in a shootout to Boston on Tuesday.
"Our game in Montreal was a little inconsistent," coach Peter DeBoer said. "(Tuesday) we were solid for 65 minutes."
Star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk failed to record a point for the first time this season at Boston but did have the Devils' lone shootout tally. He had five points over the previous four games, including an assist against the Islanders.
He tends to be on the scoresheet with regularity against them, totaling 17 points in his last 15 meetings. He has five goals and three assists in his last four home games versus New York.
David Clarkson, who scored his team-leading fourth goal Tuesday, has found the net in each of the last three games against the Islanders.
Martin Brodeur will likely be in net after he was rested Tuesday in favor of backup Johan Hedberg.
Brodeur needed only 18 saves to beat the Islanders earlier this month for his 50th career win in the series - his most against any opponent. His 10 shutouts against New York are tied with Philadelphia for his most.
The Islanders, however, are proving to be a very potent offensive team, ranking among the league leaders with 22 goals. Six of those have come on the power play in 20 chances - two in Tuesday's 4-1 victory at Pittsburgh.
They're also outstanding on the penalty kill, yielding one goal on 20 attempts.
"It takes everybody on the ice to work together as a group," goaltender Evgeni Nabokov told the team's official website. "If one guy gets lazy or one guy doesn't read as well as the other three guys the whole thing is going to fall out. Now we are making the right reads. The guys are clearing the rebounds really well and we're working well as a unit."
John Tavares leads the team with eight points, scoring four in the past two games with two coming on the power play. The center, though, hasn't been effective in nine visits to Newark, totaling four points with a minus-8 rating. He failed to even register a shot there in the April loss.
Linemate Matt Moulson has four goals and two assists in the first four games of this five-game trip. However, he's been held to two goals in his past 13 contests versus New Jersey.
Nabokov has lost his last four starts against the Devils, posting a 4.31 goals-against average.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved