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Five things to watch when the New Jersey Devils take on the New York Islanders:
1. High-event hockey
The Islanders haven't defended well all season. Lately the Devils haven't, either. Over the last 15 games, the Islanders rank 29th in chance suppression at 5v5 while the Devils sit 27th.
The Devils have continued winning because Keith Kinkaid has stepped up. As for the Islanders, they haven't done much winning at all. They've come out on the right side of games just three times in 15 tries since late February.
With both teams possessing elite talents up front, and bleeding chances, there could be a lot of action in this one.
2. A favorable power play matchup
We know the Islanders can't defend at full-strength so it should be no surprise they also get crushed while down a man. The Isles rank 30th in shot suppression and only the Montreal Canadiens give up more goals per 60 minutes of 4v5 play.
New Jersey's power play has been cruising along of late – they have 13 goals in the last 15 games – and I'd expect that to continue tonight.
3. Watch the points
The Islanders' defense shoots the puck a lot. They have four defenders inside the top-85 in terms of shot attempts/60 at 5v5, including two in the top-6 (Johnny Boychuk and Ryan Pulock). For perspective, the Devils have zero inside the top-85.
There are some big shots on New York's blue line and they like to put them to use. The Devils will need to close gaps quickly so they don't have time, or clear lanes, to shoot.
4. Hard match the Mathew Barzal line
If I'm John Hynes, I'm sticking the Sami Vatanen pairing on Barzal's line every chance I get – especially with Josh Bailey missing from the top unit.
Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle, and Barzal have been magic together in terms of creating offense. They generate almost 40 chances and score 4.56 goals/60 at 5v5. The Tampa Bay Lightning generate 31 chances and score 3.02 goals/60 so that tells you just how incredible New York's 2nd line has been. To me, they're the biggest threat.
5. Keith Kinkaid
As mentioned above, the Devils have not defended well lately. They've given up chances in bunches and a date with the Islanders probably isn't going to cure that.
The Devils will need another solid effort from Kinkaid if they're going to bank another massive two points.
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Michael Grabner - Pavel Zacha - Patrick Maroon
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Brian Gibbons
Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen
John Moore - Damon Severson
Mirco Mueller - Will Butcher
New York (via DailyFaceoff.com)
Anders Lee - John Tavares - Tanner Fritz
Anthony Beauvillier - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd - Brock Nelson - Ross Johnston
** - Chris Wagner - Cal Clutterbuck
Johnny Boychuk - Nick Leddy
Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock
Brandon Davidson - Adam Pelech
Puck drop is just after 7:00 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on MSG+ and MSG+2.
Note: data via NaturalStatTrick.com and Corsica.Hockey.
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