The New York Islanders are looking to create some separation in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The New Jersey Devils are slowly improving their position, despite a three-game slide.
The Islanders may have a chance to gain sole possession of eighth place in the conference Monday night when they attempt to win back-to-back trips to New Jersey for the first time in over five years.
The Islanders are (16-16-3) tied with the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff position in the East, one point ahead of the 10th-place Carolina and Washington, which is idle Monday.
The Rangers host Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg, while the Hurricanes are in Montreal, the team atop the Northeast.
The Islanders, who haven't reached the postseason since 2006-07, may have a chance to create a cushion if they can win two straight on the road against the Devils (15-11-9) for the first time since April 8, 2007-Jan. 16. 2008 - the last two of that stretch at Prudential Center.
Brad Boyes scored 2:01 into overtime to give New York a 5-4 victory in its most recent visit to Newark on Jan. 31, only its fourth win in its last 15 games there.
The Islanders also squared the five-game season series at two apiece on Feb. 16, riding John Tavares' hat trick to a 5-1 home win.
New York wasn't as effective offensively Saturday, losing 2-0 at Pittsburgh despite outshooting the Atlantic Division rival 35-27. The team, which went 0 for 4 on the power play while ending a three-game winning streak, had won four of its previous five games when generating at least 35 shots, totaling 17 goals in those contests.
"We had opportunities at the end of the second and in the third," coach Jack Capuano said. "Normally when you don't capitalize on those opportunities, it's going to come back to get you. That's what happened (Saturday)."
Tavares will try to get untracked after being held without a point for just the fourth time on the road. The center has 10 goals and eight assists in helping the Islanders to a 10-5-1 road mark, including five and two, respectively at New Jersey.
The center had only three goals and four assists over the previous 18 overall meetings.
Matt Moulson assisted on each goal of Tavares' hat trick against New Jersey in February's win, with the roles reversed on the left wing's tally.
The Devils are seventh in the conference, four points ahead of the Islanders and Rangers, but they've squandered chances to significantly widen that gap during a three-game skid, getting only single points each time.
New Jersey is especially lamenting the last two since it surrendered game-tying goals in the final 30 seconds of regulation, including Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss at conference-worst Florida. Martin Brodeur gave up the tying goal with 27 seconds remaining before surrendering the decisive tally on the only shot of the extra session.
"They hurt. We've got to figure out a way to close these games, that's the bottom line," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're leaving some points on the table. You hope it doesn't come back to haunt you."
A return home could help since the Devils are 10-5-2 as host, with Brodeur going 7-1-2 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a shutout. However, he's 3-2-1 with a 2.98 GAA in his last six meetings against the Islanders there.
The Associated Press News Service
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