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Saturday, February 16, 2013
W2W4: Islanders vs. Devils

By Katie Strang

At a glance: With a win over the Flyers on Friday night, the Devils retained their top spot in the Eastern Conference. In their second of back-to-back games, they’ll hope to hold off the struggling New York Islanders, who have dropped five of their past six games. The Islanders are coming off a morale-boosting 4-3 shootout win over their rivals, the New York Rangers, and aim to regain some ground in the standings with a divisional matchup at home at Nassau Coliseum.

Hot start for Hedberg: One of the Devils’ keys for success this season? Their strength in net. And that doesn’t apply only to 40-year-old surefire Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur. Backup netminder Johan Hedberg has been terrific, as well. The beloved Hedberg, no spring chicken either at 39 years old, is 2-0-1 with an astounding 0.65 goals-against average and .973 save percentage. He’ll get the nod in net Saturday.

Leading the way: Proving last year’s breakout 30-goal season was no fluke, Devils forward David Clarkson notched his team-leading 10th goal of the season Friday. The gritty 28-year-old winger, set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, is second on the team with 16 points.

Tavares time: Despite the Islanders' scoring woes, John Tavares is picking up points on offense. The 22-year-old star center extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a key goal in the team’s recent defeat of the Rangers. He also tallied in the shootout to help the team halt a dreadful five-game skid.

Breaking through: First-line Devils center Travis Zajac snapped an 11-game goal drought with a goal and an assist in the team’s 5-3 win against the Flyers on Friday night. Zajac, 27, is expected to be one of the team’s top contributors this season, especially with the loss of star Zach Parise from the Devils' lineup.

Nabby’s night: The Devils are expected to face goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in net Saturday. Although the Islanders have struggled in net recently, Nabokov turned away 36 shots Thursday in leading the Isles to their first win at Madison Square Garden in nine games.

Poni up: Welcome back, Alexei Ponikarovsky. In his first game back as a Devil -- he was reacquired Wednesday in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets -- Ponikarovsky recorded his third goal of the season in his first game back in red and black as the Devils downed the Flyers.

Lineup changes: Veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder goes back in the lineup for the Devils; Mark Fayne will be a healthy scratch. David Ullstrom returns for the Islanders; former Devil Erik Boulton and Marty Reasoner will sit.