Islanders Look To Ground Jets: Your Gameday Preview

Can JT wake the first line from their slumber? Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets (18-17-2) at New York Islanders (17-16-3) 7pm, Nassau Coliseum

Middletown, N. J. – Fresh off a not so convincing but critical victory over the New Jersey Devils last night, the Islanders return home to take on a club that has all the makings of a team that gives the Isles fits. The Winnipeg Jets are big, fast, system oriented defensive team and with a playoff push continuing, it is vital for the Isles to fight through that and start to show some success on home ice, where they have struggled mightily this season at 6-11-2.

With the trade deadline looming tomorrow at 3pm, my head has been virtually spinning all morning long into the early afternoon as I gaze at all the activity on Twitter. Of course, activity does not always translate into actual movement but the Dallas Stars today decided to deal Derek Roy to  the Vancouver Canucks and Jaromir Jagr to the Boston Bruins. Plenty of other ‘rentals’ seem to be in play such as Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller and of course, Ryan Clowe, who was a healthy scratch last night and seems to be trying to negotiate a long term contract extension prior to any move. A lower level move involving Carolina picking up Marc-Andre Bergeron also occured but as Islander fans know, that does not make the Hurricanes a better defensive hockey club.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

Just give me a heads up, eh? Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Buzz around the Islanders has been on the contract extension front leading into the deadline. With so many players on the market that do not fit the Islanders rebuilding plans and a lack of desire, rightfully so, to move any players from their young stable of talent, Garth Snow has been working to extend defenseman and team captain Mark Streit. Darren Dreger of TSN reported this morning those talks have hit a stalemate. Now the question begs, who blinks first? Unconfirmed reports have Mark asking for 3 years at 5 million per season to stay on Long Island. With this declining play since suffering a major shoulder injury and team worst -15 rating this season, many agree that is too long and too much for the Isles to commit. The return for blue liners so far has been very good so it comes with little surprise if Garth wakes up tomorrow morning, tied with the New Jersey Devils in the standings, and works the phone feverishly. Moving Streit does NOT mean the Isles are packing anything in, or that they stand less of a chance of capturing the teams first post season birth since 2007. But, at the end of the day, the general manager will certainly do what he has always done, and that is what is in the best interest of the franchise moving forward towards Barclays Center.

Floating In The Long Island Sound

The first line for New York continues to struggle, having another rough night with the Devils defense yesterday. Tonight, they face arguably a better more mobile defense so it does not get any easier from this point on out. Matt Moulson continues to be mired in a tremendous drought, now with only 4 goals in his last 22 games. Luckily, the Isles have been getting good secondary scoring from Josh Bailey and improved play by Frans Nielsen. The first line of John Tavares, second in the league in goals, Moulson and Brad Boyes have combined to be -32 on the season and now is the most important time for them to up their games collectively. Who can forget the last time these teams played back in January, with the Jets coming back late to stun the Isles 5-4 at MTS Centre. My feeling is the Isles have matured a ton since that game and we should not see a repeat tonight. There was an optional skate at Nassau Coliseum this morning, with no player availability. Coach Jack Capuano will speak to the media at 5pm, so we will not know until then the plans for Anders Lee. The guess here at eyesonisles is that he slots into the 3rd line with Aucoin/Reasoner being scratched to accommodate. Another young horse was added to the stable as well, with the team announcing today that Andrey Pedan has signed an entry level contract and will report to the Sound Tigers.

Cleared For Takeoff? 

Fresh off a 4-2 loss last night in Manhattan to the New York Rangers, the Jets come in 10-8-2 on the road but 4-6 in their last ten and losers of 3 straight. At their also optional skate this morning, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was on the ice and Al Montoya was not so it is very possible that the Isles see their old teammate between the pipes as in their first meeting this season. With the Jets 4 points up on the Hurricanes for the Southeast division lead but also ahead by 3 games played, this game is every bit as vital to Winnipeg. The Isles should not expect a walk through here and need to be at their best.  This is a dangerous team, led by captain Andrew Ladd who is on top of the Jets scoring ledger at 14-18-32 in 37 games. Look for youngster Evander Kane (13-13-26) to get under anyone’s skin he can be around and hulking defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (6-15-21) to give Isles forwards fits in the corners. Here are head coach Claude Noel‘s thoughts on the upcoming trade deadline..

“I’m not on Twitter, so I won’t be following that. I’ll be watching in Montreal, but I won’t be hung up on the TV. Things happen pretty quickly, so you find out about the moves that get made. It’s not going to consume my day or anything.”

Rants And Ramblings

Keys to victory for the Isles tonight is going to be getting off to a fast start. Isles are 12-3-3 when scoring first and 8-2-1 when leading after the 1st period. Conversely  the Jets are 7-13-1 when allowing the first goal and 4-10-1 when trailing at the 1st intermission. Winnipeg is an even worse 1-11-0 if you can get the lead on them through 2 periods.

The Islanders, by some calculations, can only afford to lose 4 more games in regulation time and still qualify for a postseason spot. That leaves little margin for error. But coming off a March in which the team finished 8-5-1 it is quite within the realm of possibility. The Rangers are off, so with a win tonight, the Isles would move ahead of the Broadway Blueshirts and into a tie with the Devils for 7th in the conference.

EyesOnIsles prediction : Isles 4, Jets 2

Enjoy the game everyone!

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