Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report
New York Islanders (27-35-9, 63 pts) at Carolina Hurricanes (31-31-9, 71 pts)
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
When: 7:00 PM ET, March 25th, 2014
TV: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)
Radio: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)
Opposition Blog: Cardiac Cane
There is something very much in common between the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes as they enter tonight’s game in Raleigh.
Neither team is going to make the playoffs. With the Islanders fate sealed some weeks ago, only recently have the Hurricanes fallen out of contention as they are currently nine points back with four teams to pass and only eleven games left on the schedule.
That does not mean that either of these teams has given up however. The Islanders have won three of their last five and the Hurricanes two of their last three. This season, Carolina has owned New York, winning all three previous meetings and seven straight overall.
Injuries, poor goaltending and sub-par secondary scoring has continued to doom the Islanders this season as John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait are all out of the lineup and Josh Bailey continuing to struggle through a horrific season in which his confidence has been reduced to rubble. What is important to remember in Bailey’s case is that the same conversations were being had about Kyle Okposo just a year ago after scoring just 4 goals in 48 regular season games before coming alive in the playoffs and carrying that over to his breakout offensive season in 2013-14.
On the bright side, we have gotten a chance to get extended looks at the future of the organization with Brock Nelson cementing his role as a top six forward, Anders Lee off to a marvelous beginning offensively, Mike Halmo becoming an instant fan favorite and Ryan Strome learning his way through the physical side of the National Hockey League.
On defense, it’s been more of the same with Calvin de Haan poised to become a future top 4 defenseman, Thomas Hickey coming out of nowhere to become the teams only plus player after 71 games and Kevin Czuczman injecting some youthful exuberance into the locker room. I still believe Matt Donovan can be a star with proper handling and development, something the Islanders, in my opinion, have failed him on this season.
Being the only true ‘river-boat gambler’ in the system, Matt’s mistakes are often magnified by the partner he plays with being unable to compensate. And in a season playing with mostly Radek Martinek and Matt Carkner has not done him any favors in that department. Not to mention the yo-yo effect of being sent up and down between Long Island and Bridgeport.
For Carolina, they are again led by some offensive stars in their own right. Eric Staal, team captain, paces the team with 17-38-55 while ex-figure skater Jeff Skinner is coming along nicely in his own right, posting 26-19-45 in only 60 games.
With Anton Khudobin (2.28, .927) signing a long term extension to remain with Carolina, it looks like he will be the future in goal and Justin Peters will claim the backup role (2.50, .919). Long time Hurricane Cam Ward (3.09, .896) figures to be the odd man out and will likely be moved this summer. Although with a no-trade clause, he can pick his destination of choice. Ward will however get the start tonight.
A brief warm climate road trip will continue for the Islanders as they travel to Tampa Bay for a game on Thursday evening before returning home to take on the New Jersey Devils Saturday.
- All time vs Carolina : 50-61-12
- Road Warriors: The Isles are 12-4-1 in their last 17 road games
- Hot Hands: Kyle Okposo has eight points (2g/6a) in his last six games. Frans Nielsen has six points (3g/3a) in the last five games. Anders Lee has five points (2g/3a)in the last five games.
- NHL Scoring Race: Kyle Okposo is tied for eighth place in the NHL scoring race with 69 points (27g/42a). Okposo has 21 multi-point games this season, which ranks third in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.
- Back-To-Backs: The Islanders have played 15 sets of back-to-back games this season. They are 6-8-1 on the front-end and 6-7-2 on the back-end of back-to-backs this season. The club will total 17 back-to-back sets in 2013-14
- Need For 3: The Isles are 23-10-3 when they score at least three goals and are 4-25-6 when they do not
- Career Wins: Evgeni Nabokov’s 348 career victories rank 18th on the NHL all time wins list. Nabokov ranks 18th all time in shutouts with 58.
27 Anders Lee – 51 Frans Nielsen – 21 Kyle Okposo
12 Josh Bailey – 29 Brock Nelson – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin – 18 Ryan Strome – 13 Colin McDonald
28 Johan Sundstrom – 53 Casey Cizikas – 43 Mike Halmo