Devils, Islanders look to gain ground in rematch
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NEW YORK -- A pair of teams looking to gain valuable ground in the jumbled Eastern Conference wild card race will play for the second time in as many nights Sunday, when the New York Islanders host the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center.
The Devils further complicated the wild card race on Saturday, when they held off a furious late comeback by the Islanders to earn a 3-2 victory at Prudential Center.
Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Zajac and Pavel Zacha scored as the Devils carried a 3-0 lead into the final 17 minutes, but Andrew Ladd and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Islanders, who missed a chance to tie the game in the final 90 seconds when Nick Leddy's shot at an open net bounced off a post.
With the win, the Devils (25-23-10) kept the Islanders (26-21-10) from moving into a tie for the second wild card. New York is two points behind the Boston Bruins, who have 64 points, while New Jersey trails the Bruins by four points.
The Islanders and Devils are among six teams within six points of the second wild card.
"Tonight was a playoff-type atmosphere and this is where you grow," Devils head coach John Hynes told The Bergen Record.?
The Islanders will be looking to grow off an impressive offensive effort Saturday, when they lost despite outshooting the Devils 42-21.
"I thought we deserved better," interim Islanders head coach Doug Weight told reporters afterward. "We were the better team tonight.
"We need to start better, start (Sunday) the way we finished this one."
The Islanders will be doubly focused Sunday, when they play their final home game before heading out on a nine-game three-week road trip -- the longest road trip in franchise history in terms of both games and days away from home. New York won't return to Brooklyn until it hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13.
The Islanders are just 7-13-4 on the road and 8-0-2 at home since Weight took over for Jack Capuano on Jan. 17.
"There's nothing to say about this one," Weight told reporters Saturday night. "Except we have to win on the road if we're going anywhere."
The Devils anticipated late Saturday that the Islanders would be well-prepared for Sunday's rematch.
"Hopefully we come with that mindset and know it's going to be a grind," Devils center Travis Zajac told The Record. "We're going to have to do things that make them uncomfortable on the ice and that's how we win this time of the year."
Neither Weight nor Hynes said who would start in goal for their respective teams'on Sunday, which leaves open the possibility that the Islanders' Thomas Greiss and the Devils' Cory Schneider will again face each other in a battle of no. 1 netminders.
Schneider made 40 saves Saturday, the third time this season he's recorded at least 40 saves while Greiss' 18 saves marked the fewest he's made in a full game this year.
Islanders backup Jean-Francois Berube and Devils second-stringer Keith Kinkaid have combined to make just 19 starts this season.
Updated February 19, 2017