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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, March 8th (All times Eastern)

New York Islanders (28-29-9) at New Jersey Devils (37-24-5), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Devils and Islanders will start a home-and-home series tonight in Newark, as New Jersey hosts New York in an Atlantic Division clash at Prudential Center.

Thanks to some quirky scheduling by the NHL, the Islanders are actually in the midst of a three-game stretch against the Devils. New York defeated Jersey by a 1-0 score on Long Island this past Sunday and was idle leading up to this home-and-home. Meanwhile, the Devils had their meetings with the Islanders split up by Tuesday's home win over the New York Rangers.

The Isles have taken two straight from New Jersey since the Devils posted a 1-0 home win in the opener of the season series on Nov. 25. New Jersey has still won five of seven overall in this series and eight of the last 10 encounters in the Garden State.

The Devils had lost five of six heading into Tuesday's game against the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference leaders, but David Clarkson scored the game-winner early in the third period to lift New Jersey to the 4-1 victory over the Rangers.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist each while Ryan Carter also scored for the Devils, while Martin Brodeur stopped 25 shots in the win.

"This was a big game for us because we weren't very sharp lately," said Kovalchuk. "We need these points right now and wins against teams as good as the Rangers are huge."

The Devils have won two of their last three and are currently seeded sixth in the East. New Jersey is just one point ahead of Ottawa and only two behind Philadelphia in the conference standings.

On the injury front for New Jersey, forward Alexei Ponikarovsky has missed the last three games with a sprained right knee and is questionable for tonight. Ponikarovsky has five goals and six assists in 17 games since coming to New Jersey in a trade with Carolina. He has 12 goals and 14 assists in 66 total games this season.

The Islanders' win over New Jersey on Sunday was the club's second straight victory, and tonight New York will try for its first three-game win streak since Jan. 17-21.

Anders Nilsson was in net for New York on Sunday and he posted the first shutout of his career to help the Isles take the 1-0 victory. Playing in just the third game of his career, Nilsson turned away all 24 shots he faced. Kyle Okposo's second-period goal was the only score of the game.

"We played pretty well defensively, didn't give up too many second-chance shots and cleared the rebounds out pretty well," said Okposo. "The ones we didn't get to, he (Nilsson) made good stops on."

Regular starter Evgeni Nabokov could be back between the pipes tonight. He is just 2-5-0 with a 3.39 goals-against average in his career against New Jersey.

Brodeur turned away 24-of-25 shots for the Devils to get saddled with Sunday's hard-luck loss, but he is 48-27-2 with four ties and a 2.22 GAA in his career against the Isles.

The Devils are 17-12-3 as the host this year and the Isles are 13-15-4 as the guest. The clubs will complete the home-and-home series Saturday night on Long Island.

03/08 10:39:21 ET

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