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Islanders, Devils Face Off

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(AP) – A scoring surge from John Tavares and strong play from Rick DiPietro has helped the New York Islanders put together a solid stretch.

The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, are still hailing moral victories.

Tavares looks to build on his second career hat trick while helping the Islanders to another win over the NHL-worst Devils on Monday afternoon.

Tavares has sparked the Islanders’ 9-4-2 stretch by collecting 10 goals and nine assists with nine and six, respectively, coming in the victories.

The 20-year-old center continued that burst with a natural hat trick in 5-3 win over visiting Buffalo on Saturday. His team-high 18 goals are six shy of his total from his entire rookie season.

“John has always had a consistent effort,” DiPietro said. “He’s learning how to gear up for an 82-game season. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a 20-year old.”

DiPietro likely will make a second consecutive start for New York (14-22-7) after stopping 40 shots against the Sabres following a five-game absence due to a groin injury. The oft-injured netminder is 4-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his last four starts after going 1-6-2 with a 4.12 GAA in his previous nine.

“I felt great,” DiPietro said of his troublesome health.

He’s won six of his last eight games against the Devils (12-29-3), compiling a 1.49 GAA with three shutouts. That stretch includes a 4-1-0 record, a 1.38 GAA and two blankings of New Jersey at Nassau Coliseum after making 29 saves in a 2-0 win there Nov. 26.

Tavares had a goal while Josh Bailey netted two and set up another in the most recent matchup with the Devils on Dec. 23, a 5-1 road victory for the Islanders.

New York is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games against New Jersey on Long Island.

Also contributing offensively for the Islanders is left wing Blake Comeau, who has five goals and two assists in his past six games.

The Devils, last in the NHL with 27 points, are looking to rebound from Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Florida. The defeat came a night after they beat Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay 5-2 to complete a sweep of the home-and-home set, ending an 11-game road losing streak.

Still, coach Jacques Lemaire found solace with a two-game split in the Sunshine State heading into the conclusion of this three-game trip Monday.

“Two good teams, and it’s good to get three of four points,” Lemaire said.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey’s leader with 12 goals, is trying to rebound from Saturday’s pointless effort. The right wing had four in the previous two games, but has none in two season meetings with the Islanders after totaling three goals and five assists in the previous three matchups.

His struggles are partly why New Jersey’s power play ranks 27th in the league with a 13.9 percent success rate, converting 1 of 24 over the last nine games.

The unit is 0 for 8 on the man advantage in two games versus New York.

Updated January 17, 2011
w1 © 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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pixy Islanders, Devils Face Off