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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, March 30th (All times eastern)

New York Islanders (29-35-12) at New Jersey Devils (34-36-5), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - With their valiant playoff push about to come up short, the New Jersey Devils will try to avoid a fourth straight loss when they host the New York Islanders tonight at Prudential Center.

After a dreadful first half of the season, the Devils surprisingly inserted themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff conversation with an amazing two-month stretch that began shortly after the new year and lasted until the middle of March.

New Jersey posted a 23-3-2 record from Jan. 9-March 16, but after spending much of the first half with the lowest point total in the NHL, the club always had little margin for error when it came to making the playoffs.

The Devils' current 1-4-1 stretch has just about eliminated the team from the postseason for the first time since 1996. With just seven games left in the regular season, New Jersey is 12th in the East and 12 points behind Buffalo for the conference's eighth and final playoff berth.

New Jersey was dealt a third straight loss Saturday in Buffalo, as Ryan Miller made 30 stops to post a shutout in the Sabres' 2-0 win. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 shots for the Devils, who have dropped three games in a row for the first time since a four-game slide from Jan. 1-8.

"You gotta give the Sabres a little credit. They were hungry," said Brodeur. "They're smelling it -- they're in the playoffs. They are trying to get some distance from some teams."

After going 1-2-1 on a four-game road trip, the Devils are kicking off a three-game homestand tonight. New Jersey has won eight of its last 10 in the Garden State and is 18-15-3 as the host this season.

Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to play today despite being bothered by an ankle injury sustained in Saturday's game. However, it's unclear if tonight will mark the return of another Devils star winger, as Zach Parise is almost ready to come back from a right knee injury that has kept him sidelined since late October.

Parise had 38 goals and 82 points in 81 games for the Devils last season, but he suffered a torn meniscus in just his 12th test of the 2010-11 campaign. The 26-year-old had surgery on the knee in early November and has recently returned to practice. Parise is questionable for tonight and will likely make his return to game action sometime this week.

"I'm excited for whenever it is, whether it's Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, I'm still not sure," Parise said.

Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov is questionable for tonight after sitting out the last game with a lower-body injury.

New Jersey has won the last three meetings with the Islanders after losing the first two encounters of the season series. The Devils have taken seven of 11 and 12 of 18 overall from the Isles and New York has dropped seven of its last eight in the Garden State.

The Islanders are three points behind New Jersey in the standings and come into tonight's tilt having lost their last two contests. New York's last game was Saturday's 4-1 setback against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, who received a hat trick from James van Riemsdyk.

Blake Comeau picked up the lone score for the Islanders, who have also lost five of their last seven. Rick DiPietro allowed all four scores on 22 shots.

In injury news for New York, veteran centerman Doug Weight will miss the rest of the season with back problems that have kept him out of the lineup since November. At 40 years of age, there is speculation that Weight will announce his retirement after the season. Weight has recorded 1,033 points in 1,238 NHL games.

Also, the Isles announced Tuesday that goaltender Al Montoya was signed to a one-year contract extension through next season. Montoya, who was acquired from Phoenix on Feb. 9 for a sixth-round pick in this year's draft. has been excellent since joining the Isles, going 8-4-4 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 17 games.

The Isles are just 13-18-7 on the road this year, but have won their last two away games.

03/30 10:28:50 ET


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