NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have beaten the New York Islanders two straight times. They'll try to make it three in a row on Saturday night when the two Atlantic Division foes resume their rivalry at the Prudential Center. Goaltender Martin Brodeur will make his seventh consecutive start for New Jersey. He's 5-1 with a 1.45 goals-against average since returning from a right knee injury that caused him to miss nine games. Here's what we'll be watching for:
"AWFUL" BEGINNINGS? Here's how far the Devils have come: In his pre-game press conference, interim coach Jacques Lemaire said his team's last eight first periods -- mind you they've all ended 0-0 -- have been "awful." He can't put his figure out why they can't score in the opening 20 minutes -- but at least they've defended. The Devils extended their modern NHL record of consecutive first periods without allowing a goal to 15 on Friday night in their 3-2 overtime victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. So at least there's that.
POWER PLAY OR POWER OUTAGE? Lemaire blamed his team's shocking 2-1 home loss to the Ottawa Senators on its missed power play opportunities. The Devils were 0-for-3 on the man-advantage, despite taking seven shots. They even failed to score on two five-on-three chances. However, they were 3-for-6 on the power play on Friday night. Travis Zajac had two power play goals, while Ilya Kovalchuk added the other. The key, Lemaire said, was tightening up their formations and making short passes, which are difficult for the penalty killers to tip and intercept. He also mentioned getting shots to the net. All three of the goals were scored out in front -- the final two coming on rebounds.
WATCH OUT: The Islanders are right on the Devils' heels, although you wouldn't know it. New York trails New Jersey by just two points in the standings. The Devils have amassed 66 points in 67 games, while the Islanders have recorded 64 points in 69 games. New Jersey enters Saturday night's matchup eight points behind both the Buffalo Sabres (74 points, 67 games) and New York Rangers (74 points, 69 games) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both those teams are also in action on Saturday night. The Sabres are in Toronto to face the streaking Maple Leafs, while the Rangers are in San Jose to battle the Sharks, who happen to be 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. So it is possible that if the Devils win, they very well could be six points behind someone. And they'd like that someone to be the Rangers.