The New Jersey Devils (34-36-5) offense can't seem to buy a goal these days. A matchup against the rival New York Islanders (29-35-12) should solve those problems.
The Devils will look to finish off a season-series win over the Islanders tonight at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey, just six points out of the playoffs on March 15, slogged its way to a 1-4-1 record in its last six games. Its offense, never the team's strong suit, virtually disappeared. In its past six games, it's managed just five goals. It's currently mired in a scoreless streak stretching 173 minutes and 55 seconds, a team record. It sits just 11:49 from setting the franchise record for offensive futility.
"Right now, we're obviously having a tough time scoring, and you're not going to win a lot of hockey games that way," Patrik Elias told the Associated Press.
New Jersey's recent slide cemented their position as a non-playoff team this year. The Devils, who made 13 straight postseason appearances, can be eliminated when the Sabres gain three points in the standings.
Ilya Kovalchuk believed the team will still push for a strong finish to the season.
"We're going to push until the last second of the last game," Kovalchuk told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We've got a lot of pride and we're home and I'm sure it will be a good crowd and we're doing a couple of strange things, but I think we showed a lot of character during that stretch."
The Islanders weren't surprised to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. They were officially eliminated from the postseason Saturday, after a combination of the Buffalo Sabres' 2-0 win over New Jersey and the Islanders 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Devils are 3-2-0 against the Islanders this season, winning the last three matchups. New Jersey also scored at least three goals in their wins, a hopeful sign for a team desperate for scoring.
New Jersey's offense may receive a boost with the return of injured Zach Parise. The left-winger last played on October 30, when he tore his meniscus. Neither Parise or Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire knew if he would play tonight after yesterday's practice.
"In all honesty, I can't tell you one way or the other," Parise told Gulitti. "I guess we'll have to talk. Today was OK. It was definitely nice to get another practice in and things like that, but I felt good out there. Again, the pace I think I'm adjusting a little better to it. We'll see."
Martin Brodeur will start tonight. The future Hall-of-Famer recorded a 1.92 goals-against average in his last three starts against the Islanders.
Rick DiPietro will get the nod for the Islanders. He's faced the Devils just once this season, stopping 29 shots in a 2-0 win on November 26. He's 6-2-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average in his last eight starts against the Devils.