Islanders can't start slow against Devils

John Tavares of the Islanders skates with the John Tavares of the Islanders skates with the puck against Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils. (Feb. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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The Islanders have some momentum after their two-goal rally in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. They have some confidence after a rough first period against the Rangers that was followed by 45 minutes of full-team effort and work.

They can't become complacent, though, not with the Devils coming to the Coliseum Saturday night for their third visit in the first 14 games of this season.

"We do that against Jersey," Brian Strait said of Thursday's no-show first period, "and they'll lock it down tight on us. They're a team that sits back, waits for your mistakes and pounces. They're great at it and we have to play a complete 60 minutes."

Two thirds of a complete game was enough to squeeze out two points against the Rangers on Thursday, but the Devils are a different team that knows how to clamp down on opponents who don't want to be patient. They own 2-1 and 3-0 wins over the Isles in the Coliseum this season, where the Islanders are 1-5-0 and have lost four straight. The Islanders did beat the Devils, 5-4 in overtime, in a visit to New Jersey last month.

Even though they snapped a five-game losing streak with the 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers, the Islanders still allowed at least three goals for the seventh straight game and the 11th time in their 13 games.

"We know how we have to play against them," Josh Bailey said of the Devils, who were still atop the Eastern Conference with an 8-2-3 record heading into their home game with the Flyers on Friday night. "It's a matter of going out and doing it."

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Jack Capuano will stick with his shuffled depth forward lines, especially the Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Colin McDonald line that produced a goal on the first shift of the second period in the Garden that spurred the rally. His defense pairs will stay the same as well, after Joe Finley played nearly 19 minutes and handled himself ably.

Whomever is in for the Islanders, the work ethic and energy needs to be there from the start. Or else the progress they made on Thursday will have been for nothing.

"We're still under .500 and we still have a lot to prove," Strait said. "We got two points the other night and we were happy about that, but we're not going to dwell on it."

Notes & quotes: D Matt Carkner (lower body) practiced and should be ready to return for Monday afternoon's game against the Flyers . . . Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal against the Devils, most likely opposing Johan Hedberg, who shut out the Isles in the Coliseum on Feb. 3.

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