Oct 17, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner (40) controls the puck in front of Edmonton Oilers center Jordan Eberle (14) and defenseman Anton Belov (77) during the second period of a game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame Report: New York Islanders vs. Edmonton Oilers


 

Tonight, the New York Islanders (24-32-8, 56 pts) visit the Edmonton Oilers (21-34-8, 50 pts) in game no. 65 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

 

Where: Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
When: Thursday Mar. 6th, 9:30 p.m. ET
Watch: MSG+
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRCN
Opposition Blog: Oil On Whyte

 

It won’t be a 2014 Stanley Cup Finals preview, or a matchup of fringe playoff teams, or even a game between two quality NHL teams…but it’s the game we’ll be watching tonight.

Yes, it’s easy to kick the Islanders and the Oilers when they’re down—which has been for most of the season—but both teams haven’t made it difficult for analysts and fans to point out the glaring issues in their respective campaigns.

Both teams sit in last place in their divisions; both teams are among the worst in the league in goal differential; and both teams traded big-name players prior to yesterday’s deadline.

The Isles parted with F Thomas Vanek for a less-than-stellar return from trade partner Montreal, with the Canadiens sending back a mid-level prospect in the deal. (Both teams also agreed to a conditional draft pick exchange as part of the trade if Montreal makes the postseason.) The Oilers traded F Ales Hemsky to the Ottawa Senators for two draft picks, ending the winger’s 11-year tenure in Edmonton.

The Islanders and Oilers have been mired in seemingly endless rebuilds over the past five-plus years, and yesterday’s trades were indicative of the extent to which the organizations seem to be spinning their tires as they search for answers. So no, tonight’s game will not be a rematch of the 1983 or 1984 Stanley Cup Finals. And no, we’re not any less disappointed than you are about that.

New York comes into tonight’s game off of a 3-2 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, a game in which Michael Grabner—he of the Olympic hockey offensive explosion and breakaway specialist persuasion—netted the game-winning goal. For a team without its captain due to injury, its second-best player due to trade, and simply playing out the string of its remaining 18 games, the Islanders have an opportunity to showcase some of their young talent tonight. But that’s not to say that the more senior players can’t show the fans a thing or two.

Edmonton is coming off of a win in their last game as well, having beaten the Senators at home 3-2, with the recently departed Hemsky scoring two of his former team’s three goals. (Wow that’s a weird sentence.) The Oilers have plenty of young talent at the NHL level already, and would like to see players like Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov dominate games more regularly. For a team looking to improve upon perennial last-place finishes, the kids need to mature sooner rather than later.

So, in fact, there is something to watch for on both sides tonight: potential NHL stars-in-the-making. (Or maybe we’re just overselling this.)

 

What They’re Saying…

[Vanek] came to the rink with us and then he’s told he’s not playing. It changes things around. But like I said, we did a great job of focusing on not letting this stuff distract us.

–Islanders F Michael Grabner on playing at Winnipeg before the NHL trade deadline

 

He was absolutely excellent. He was energetic and entertaining to watch. I found my eyes fixated on him a lot. I thought he was great from the initial drop of the puck.

–Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins on Ales Hemsky’s play against Ottawa

 

Quick Hitters…

  • The Isles are 11-3-0 in their last 14 road games
  • Kyle Okposo is tied for 10th in the NHL scoring race with 61 points (25G, 36A)
  • Anders Lee has six points (4G, 2A) in his first six career NHL games
  • The Islanders open their 14th set of back-to-back games tonight; they are 6-7-0 on the front end and 5-6-2 on the back-end of back-to-backs this season

 

Projected Lineup…

40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 21 Okposo
12 Bailey – 29 Nelson – 15 Clutterbuck
27 Lee – 18 Strome – 13 McDonald
43 Halmo – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin

44 de Haan – 3 Hamonic
14 Hickey – 11 Visnovsky
37 Strait – 46 Donovan

20 Nabokov
45 Nilsson

Scratches: 4 Martinek, 7 Carkner, 36 Boulton
IR: 91 Tavares

 

Tags: Ales Hemsky New York Islanders Pregame Thomas Vanek