Martin Brodeur and Rick DiPietro are both one win away from franchise records. The New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders both need that victory very badly.
Brodeur looks to continue his remarkable success against the Islanders this season when the Atlantic Division rivals meet Tuesday night in a pivotal matchup at Nassau Coliseum.
Brodeur enters this matchup with 43 wins, matching the franchise record he set in 1997-98 and equaled in 1999-00 and 2005-06. DiPietro, meanwhile, has a career-high 32 victories this season, tying the team record he shares with Billy Smith (1981-82) and Chris Osgood (2001-02).
DiPietro and the Islanders beat the Devils 5-2 in the first meeting this season on Nov. 2, but New Jersey has taken the past five matchups behind Brodeur's brilliant goaltending.
The Devils (44-23-8) have outscored New York 12-4 in those five games with Brodeur recording three shutouts - all by 2-0 scores. Brodeur could've had a fourth shutout, but Miroslav Satan scored with one second left in regulation on Jan. 13 before New Jersey prevailed 2-1 in overtime.
Brodeur is 37-17-2 with four ties, a 2.17 goals-against average and 10 shutouts - his most against any team - in 62 career games versus the Islanders (36-27-12).
DiPietro has played very well against the Devils this season with a 2.18 GAA, but only has a 1-4-1 record in those games.
New Jersey was cruising toward its second straight Atlantic Division title a few weeks ago before a 4-5-1 stretch allowed Pittsburgh to move into a tie for the top spot. The Devils, who have a game in hand on the Penguins, ended a season-high, three-game skid Saturday with a 4-3 shootout victory at Florida.
Jim Dowd scored twice in regulation and rookie Travis Zajac netted the winner in the shootout.
"No comments (were made about Pittsburgh). Not from the coaching staff," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "I think everybody probably knew but nobody talked about it. We didn't (talk about Pittsburgh) on purpose."
Devils captain and leading scorer Patrik Elias is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games due to a groin injury.
"We have been here long enough, everybody, to know that you just can't turn the switch on or off," Elias said. "We have to get it going now. Our goal isn't to look at the standings, but to work hard and get into the playoff mode."
Groin injuries have also kept key forwards John Madden and Brian Gionta out of the lineup recently and right wing Jamie Langenbrunner - the team's second-leading scorer - left Saturday's game with an illness and did not practice Monday.
While the Devils are vying for the division lead, the Islanders are one of three teams tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Although a 2-1 overtime loss Sunday to the rival New York Rangers gave the Islanders points in four straight (2-0-2), it prevented them from gaining sole possession of eighth place.
"We can't be satisfied," Islanders forward Ryan Smyth said. "We've got seven games remaining and we've got to find a way through to capitalize and get two (points) and minimize other teams getting points."
One area that remains a concern for New York is a power play that has produced only three goals in the last 21 chances, including a costly 1-for-9 performance Sunday.
"If you look at the games we've dropped the last few weeks, one more power play goal here and there would have made all the difference," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said on the team's official Web site.
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