Islanders vs. Devils Preview
Newark, NJ (AP) - In what had been a foregone conclusion for months, the New York Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention the last time they took the ice.
The New Jersey Devils look like they'll be joining them.
A nine-week hot streak gave the Devils a surprising chance to make the postseason, but now-slumping New Jersey has little hope left of securing a postseason berth as it hosts the Islanders on Wednesday night.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Devils -150 money line favorites for Wednesday's game against the Islanders. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 51% of more than 98 bets for this game have been placed on the Devils -150.
The Devils (34-36-5) managed to move within six points of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot March 15 with an incredible 23-3-2 run. New Jersey had been 27 points out of eighth place Jan. 8, but the Devils' poor play throughout the first half meant they couldn't afford to go into a slide.
They've done just that in the last six games, going 1-4-1 to drop to the brink of elimination.
"The last five or six games has put us into a big uphill battle, again,'' forward Patrik Elias said after a 2-0 loss to Buffalo on Saturday.
New Jersey's playoff push was aided by three games against the Islanders (29-35-12) since the middle of January. The Devils won all of them, scoring at least three goals in each contest.
They haven't been nearly as prolific offensively of late.
New Jersey, which last missed the postseason in 1996, has been shut out in its last two games and three times in the previous five. The Devils have gone 173 minutes, 55 seconds without a goal and have managed two goals in their last five losses.
"Right now, we're obviously having a tough time scoring, and you're not going to win a lot of hockey games that way," Elias said.
With Buffalo's win over New Jersey on Saturday and the Islanders' 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, New York was eliminated from postseason contention for the fourth straight year and fifth time in six seasons.
Missing the playoffs wasn't much of a surprise for the Islanders, who opened the season 5-18-5 and were 20 points below the postseason cutoff at the end of January.
"We've got a few games left and we're going to play hard and see what happens,'' coach Jack Capuano said.
Like the Devils, the Islanders are sputtering on offense, scoring once in each of the last two games. New York scored two goals each time in losing its last three to New Jersey after outscoring the Devils 7-1 in winning the first two meetings of the season.
"These last six games are still important,'' said Rick DiPietro, who stopped 18 shots Saturday in making his second start after missing 20 games with broken facial bones. "It's important we keep playing and getting better. You just want to fast forward to October with everyone healthy.''
DiPietro has been in net for only one game of the season series with New Jersey, stopping 29 shots in a 2-0 win Nov. 26. He has gone 6-2-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average and three shutouts in his last eight matchups with the Devils.Martin Brodeur, who has posted a 1.65 GAA and two shutouts while starting every game of his team's six-game slump, has recorded a 1.92 GAA in winning his last three starts against the Islanders.
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