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Both the Devils and New York Islanders have been without their franchise goaltenders most of this season. But while one team has flourished, the other has sunk to the bottom of the league.
The Devils look to send the last-place Islanders to their seventh straight loss when the Atlantic Division rivals meet tonight at Nassau Coliseum (7 p.m., MSG Plus 2, WFAN 660 AM).
Losing star goaltender Martin Brodeur to a left elbow injury in early November figured to spell trouble for New Jersey (26-15-3), which has relied on the four-time Vezina Trophy winner for nearly two decades.
Scott Clemmensen was given an opportunity and he has seized the No. 1 role by going 16-7-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average in his last 24 starts. Clemmensen, who had never started more than nine games before this season, snapped a personal three-game losing streak with a 26-save effort in a 5-3 victory at Vancouver on Tuesday.
Kevin Weekes started the opening game of New Jersey's six-game road trip - a 5-1 win over Los Angeles - before Clemmensen went 1-1 in the next two contests. Weekes was back in net Friday at Columbus and played well again, stopping 26 shots as the Devils got third-period goals from Travis Zajac and John Madden in a 2-1 victory.
"We couldn't generate that much offensively, which is tough playing against that Steve Mason kid," Weekes said. "He's been awesome. Coach kind of handed it to us a little bit in the (second) intermission. He said we needed to get back to doing what makes us a successful team. We did that."
Clemmensen is 0-1-1 with a 2.91 goals-against average in two career starts against the Islanders.
Brendan Shanahan, who signed as a free agent with the Devils earlier in the week, joined the team in Columbus, but did not dress.
This figured to be a long season for the Islanders (12-28-4) under first-year coach Scott Gordon, but the hope was that goaltender Rick DiPietro - an All-Star last season - could keep the team close in most games. DiPietro, though, was coming off knee surgery and further surgery was required in late October, limiting the former top overall pick to five games and only two in the last two-plus months.
Joey MacDonald performed well in DiPietro's place, but suffered a strained groin in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday that will sideline him 2-to-4 weeks.
Yann Danis stopped 25 shots in a 2-1 loss to East-leading Boston on Thursday, the Islanders' sixth consecutive defeat.
Danis figures to see most of the playing time over the next several weeks, but with no reliable backup, New York on Thursday brought back Wade Dubielewicz, who spent four seasons with the Islanders before signing with Ak Bars Kazan of the Continental League in Russia during the offseason.
Although they outshot Boston 41-27, the Islanders dropped to 2-16-2 in their last 20 games.
The Devils have won both meetings this season against the Islanders and four of the last five. New Jersey has at least one point in nine of its last 11 (6-2-3) visits to Nassau Coliseum.
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