Devils-Islanders Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 24, 2011
At least for one game, the New York Islanders proved they are capable of scoring. Getting quality goaltending, however, remains an issue for the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders look to record just their second win in nine games Friday afternoon when they host the New Jersey Devils in the opener of a home-and-home series. Though it's rare for a team to open a season with three goaltenders, the Islanders (5-10-4) were fortunate they had that depth when Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya both went down with injuries recently. That left Rick DiPietro as the starter but the often-injured veteran has struggled, going 2-2-3 with a 3.44 goals-against average - among the worst marks in the league. DiPietro made 29 saves in New York's 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday but allowed a goal on the Flyers' first shot of the game and was beaten by Daniel Briere's wrister with 2:26 left in the extra period. "It hit the stanchion funny and came right out to Briere,'' DiPietro said of the winning goal. "I didn't make the save.'' DiPietro has allowed 10 goals on 73 shots over his past three appearances, giving up three in 20 minutes against Boston on Saturday. The Islanders, losers of 13 of 15, activated Montoya from injured reserve after Wednesday's loss and could start him either Friday or Saturday at New Jersey (11-8-1). Montoya has a team-best 2.43 GAA. Shaky goaltending is just one of many problems for the Islanders, who were shut out in their previous two games before blowing a 3-1 lead to the Flyers. They have been outscored 15-1 in the third period over the last eight contests while scoring a club record-low 38 goals in the first 19 games. The team is 3 for 30 on the power play the last 10 games while allowing nine goals on 34 short-handed opportunities during that same stretch. One bright spot for New York was the play of right wing Kyle Okposo, who scored his first two goals Wednesday after going the first 14 games without one. He was a healthy scratch the past three contests. The line of Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen and Okposo finished with three goals, four assists, seven points and was plus-three. "It was good to see Fransie's line get back on track,'' coach Jack Capuano said. "I thought that line played exceptionally well.'' Capuano's team will try to get back on track against the Devils, who won the final four meetings last season, the last three by one goal. Martin Brodeur allowed two goals in each of those victories. Brodeur's 48 wins and 10 shutouts against the Islanders are his most against any opponent. "It's a big two games," Brodeur told the Devils' official website. "Back-to-back games are always tough but I think we could get a lot of momentum off of them. For us, it's a rivalry." Brodeur had possibly his best game of the season Wednesday in a 2-1 shootout win over Columbus. He made 16 of his season-high 35 saves during a one-sided third period and stopped both attempts in the tiebreaker as the Devils won for the third time in four games. "He was our best player," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You know what? We needed him to be." Brodeur received a boost from his club's top-ranked penalty kill which was perfect in six chances. New Jersey has surrendered only five power-play goals in 80 chances this season. Ilya Kovalchuk has eight goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games against the Islanders.
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