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Special teams loom large ahead of Islanders and Devils

The New York Islanders are heading into their third matchup of the season with the New Jersey Devils, a team trending in the opposite direction of the surging Isles.

The Devils have lost five of their last six games and the biggest issue for them has been their lack of production on the power play and a horrific penalty kill that ranks dead last in the league, succeeding just 62.3 percent of the time.

The matchup should favor the Islanders, as they are converting on 25 percent of their chances with the man advantage, good enough for 10th in the NHL. 

Even better news for the Islanders, is their numbers are only trending up with younger faces being incorporated into the lineup and power-play unit. 

20-year-old forward Oliver Wahlstrom has been a revelation on the power-play unit, picking up five points (one goal and four assists) on the man advantage.

New Jersey also appears to come into this game without its best penalty killer, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, who has started four straight games. Instead, the Devils will give Aaron Dell the start.

The Islanders will be going back to Semyon Varlamov in this one after Ilya Sorokin picked up his second shutout of the season on Saturday.

Despite the Devils recent struggles, they are still a dangerous team when they play at 5-on-5. The Islanders shouldn’t take the Devils lightly, and their gameplan should be to draw penalties early and often, putting the pressure on the league’s worst penalty kill unit.

As always, the way the Islanders play under head coach Barry Trotz, goals will come at a premium for New Jersey and the best chance for the Islanders to exploit the Devils’ weaknesses will come on the power play.

Follow Ben on Twitter @BenMandell55


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