Parise, Devils revved up after beating Rangers
Hockey is a game of emotions, and the Devils are looking to keep their energy levels high following Tuesday's crucial win over the Rangers.
The 4-1 triumph gave the Devils three victories in five meetings with their cross-river rivals.
Sparked by Ilya Kovalchuk's goal 49 seconds into the game, New Jersey rebounded well from Sunday's 1-0 disappointment on Long Island and hope to stay on a roll.
"It was great, it's always great to beat them," Zach Parise said after practice on Wednesday. "I thought for the most part we did a lot of good things, played well and capitalized when we had some good chances in the third."
Coach Peter DeBoer echoed that games against the Rangers have brought the best out of his group.
"You don't have that with everybody," DeBoer said. "Getting your team emotionally engaged in the game on a nightly basis is key to winning in this League."
Martin Brodeur made 25 saves and will start Thursday when the Islanders come calling. The Devils (37-24-5) pay another visit to Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.
New Jersey is sixth in the East with 79 points, while the Isles trail Winnipeg by seven for the final playoff spot in the conference. With 16 games left in the regular season, however, no opponent is taken lightly.
"At this time of year, we've seen how losing two, three games can bump you down pretty far in the standings," the captain said. "I think it's more so, we need to know the type of energy and type of game we need to play regardless of who we're playing against. By no means are [the Islanders] out of it. They're not that far behind the eighth, ninth spot. I guess we have to expect a similar type of game [Thursday] that we did when we played there [Sunday]."
Despite dropping five of six entering the Rangers game, the Devils believed they were competing hard enough to win. On Tuesday, they earned better breaks. The winning strike was a Petr Sykora shot from inside the blue line that deflected in off David Clarkson's leg as he drove to the net.
"A lot of times, it's a fine line where you can play a great game and do a lot of things right and you just can't score," Parise said. "All of a sudden you play a game last night where you do things right and the puck goes in and everyone's happy and you played a great game. There's not a very wide margin for error right now. Something just small like that where all of a sudden a puck goes off [Henrik] Lundqvist's shoulder and trickles in, and you beat a really good team. It's small things like that that are going to be the differences from here on out."
Expect the Devils to work harder on the forecheck than they did Sunday.
"Pete [DeBoer] brought up a stat to us after the Islander game that we were only able to get on the forecheck 20-something times, where against Washington (Friday's 5-0 win) we were able to get on the forecheck 50 times. That starts with coming out of your own zone and making clean plays. We're a forechecking team, a pressure team. We weren't able to do any of that when we played against them in Long Island."
• Alexei Ponikarovsky (lower body) will return after missing three games. He practiced on the third line with Jacob Josefson and Clarkson.