Devils, Islanders open string of meetings

The Devils don't seem to be in danger of having the Islanders catch them in the Eastern Conference standings, but that doesn't mean that New Jersey won't be facing a motivated New York team.

With the Devils and Islanders set to meet three times over the next seven days, things could also get physical and heated in a hurry and the two clubs kick off their unusual string of meetings this afternoon on Long Island.

These two Atlantic Division rivals haven't met since a home-and-home series back on Nov. 25-26. The Devils took a 1-0 decision on the road to open the set, stretching their series winning streak to five straight games overall and three in a row at New York, but the Islanders answered the next day in New Jersey with a 3-2 win.

The teams will now get reacquainted over the next week. In fact, the Islanders are set to play three straight games versus the Devils. They'll visit New Jersey on Thursday to open a second home-and-home series that wraps in New York next Saturday.

The Devils, meanwhile, have a home game versus the Rangers on Tuesday mixed in as well and the two clubs will then wrap their six-game series on April 3.

The Islanders' playoff chances seem to face a big test over these next three games as they sit seven points back of the eighth spot in the East. The Devils are tied for the fifth spot in the conference with the Flyers, 14 points clear of the Islanders but just one point ahead of the seventh-seeded Senators.

New York is coming off a big win after John Tavares tipped home a Matt Moulson shot past Boston's Tim Thomas with 4:39 left in the third on Saturday to snap the Isles' three-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory.

Moulson also scored and Josh Bailey lit the lamp for New York, which won for the second time in seven games and snapped a five-game skid on the road. Evgeni Nabokov made 32 saves and Frans Nielsen had two assists.

"It was a physical game, chippy game a little bit, but that's what this time of year is all about," Tavares said.

New Jersey enjoyed yesterday off after cruising to a 5-0 win at Washington on Friday. Zach Parise led the offense with his second career hat trick and backup Johan Hedberg, in his first start since Feb. 9, made 23 saves for his third shutout of the season and 20th of his career.

Parise leads the Devils with 27 goals and logged his first hat trick since Nov. 30, 2007, but did leave the game in the second period after taking a hard hit. He was on the bench for the third frame, but did not play much due to the blowout.

Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus both had a goal and an assist as New Jersey snapped a four-game winless streak.

"Despite the fact the wins hadn't been coming, I think we all realized that we were real close and we just had to stick with it and that's what we did tonight," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer.

Devils forward Petr Sykora is expected to play in his 1,000th career NHL game this afternoon.