EYES ON ISLES PREGAME REPORT
Tonight, the New York Islanders (14-21-7, 35 points) take on the Carolina Hurricanes (16-16-9, 41 points) in game no. 43 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…
Where: Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
When: Saturday, January 4th, 7PM
Watch: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)
Listen: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)
Opposition Blog: Cardiac Cane
Tickets: NY Islanders Tickets
The Islanders have looked like a new team the last few games. A month ago, if you told me the Islanders were going to beat the Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins, and Chicago Blackhawks in three straight games and come back from three and two goal deficits, I’d have thought you were certifiable. However, here we are now, and Long Island’s hockey team pulled somehow pulled off three straight wins against very formidable opponents.
The games weren’t always pretty, but the Islanders looked like an experienced team, stepping up and battling back when it looked like they were finished. As coach Jack Capuano would say, the team’s “battle level” was very beyond sufficient. They played hard all three games, and it paid off.
The Islanders don’t have much of an easy break tonight either, as they square off against the Carolina Hurricanes. Save for the 2011-12 season, where they swept the season series, the Islanders tend to struggle against Carolina. Maybe it’s Kirk Muller as a coach (because he sure loved Long Island), but the Hurricanes always seem to be one step ahead of the orange and blue.
However, there is hope, as coach Jack Capuano has decided to stick with the same lineup that the team has used in their three most recent games. This confirms the assumption that Evgeni Nabokov will be playing in goal tonight for the Islanders. Nabokov has been nothing short of brilliant since returning from his injury, as his save percentage has risen above .900, as he sits comfortably at a .906. However, other than stats, Nabokov’s spirit has been a huge motivation in the Islanders locker room since he’s returned. While Nabokov may not be an NHL star, his play and mentality are invaluable to the team.
Additionally to the lineups, Matt Donovan, who was recently brought back up to the NHL, will not be playing again tonight. While this move has perplexed many given Donovan’s great play recently in the AHL and his NHL play this season, the move itself is not bad at all. The Islanders have been winning games with what they’ve been using, and as the popular saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Josh Bailey will also be missing his third straight game with an upper body (shoulder) injury.
As for Carolina, Anton Khudobin will be making the start in net tonight. Khudobin has missed most of the season with an injury, but has looked very strong in the games he’s appeared in, posting a .928 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average.
With that said, expect a rather low scoring game, as both goaltenders tonight have been good this year. The offense for both teams will show up, but we may see a goalie battle tonight.
What They’re Saying
“It takes a while, it’s not just a week or something. I think now we see it, we read each other better, I think we’re making plays that early on we didn’t. We’re connecting on them now, and even though we’re getting points, I think we can get even more,” says Islanders forward Thomas Vanek on the play of the Islanders’ first line.
“When that puck went in and I heard everybody chanting ‘USA’, it was pretty special,” Kyle Okposo said after hearing the Nassau Coliseum crowd appreciate his effort and game winning goal just after being snubbed by Team USA.
Coach Jack Capuano on the health of Josh Bailey: ” He’s close. I’m sure he’d like to get in there tonight. We’ve only had the one practice with him, but he’ll continue to work on what he needs to work on and he’ll get back in there shortly.”
- Kyle Okposo is on an eight-game point streak (6g/7a), matching a career best
- John Tavares is tied for sixth in the NHL scoring race, Kyle Okposo is tied for 11th in the league
- The Isles are 14-4-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-17-5 when they do not
- Thomas Vanek is on a seven-game point streak (4g/6a), one game shy of tying his career high
- Andrew MacDonald leads the NHL with 143 blocked shots
- Matt Martin leads the NHL with 201 hits
26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
40 Grabner - 51 Nielsen - 15 Clutterbuck
29 Nelson - 18 Strome – 16 Regin
13 McDonald – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin
47 MacDonald - 14 Hickey
44 de Haan – 3 Hamonic
37 Strait – 7 Carkner
Scratches: 12 Bailey, 36 Boulton, 46 Donovan
Injured Reserve: 4 Martinek, 11 Visnovsky