Pregame Report: New York Islanders vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Dec. 8, 2011; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing

Michael Grabner

(40) reacts after Chicago Blackhawks goalie

Ray Emery

(30) lets a goal score by New York Islanders defenseman

Steve Staios

(not pictured) during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Blackhawks won in overtime, 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the New York Islanders (2-0-1, 5 pts) visit the Chicago Blackhawks (1-1-1, 3 pts) in game no. 4 of their 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
When: Tuesday Oct. 8th, 8:00 p.m. ET
Watch: NHL Network
Listen: WRHU 88.7FM, WRCN 103.9FM

The Isles head to the Windy City to take on last year’s Stanley Cup champions in what will be their toughest test so far this year. New York occupies second place in the Metropolitan Division on the strength of five points in three games played, and is facing its first Western Conference opponent since the 2011-12 season.

The Hawks have struggled slightly in their first three games, winning their season opener against the Washington Capitals, but falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Louis Blues in back-to-back games thereafter.

Backup netminders will be in net for both teams tonight, as Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start for Chicago and Kevin Poulin will see his first action for New York.

Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad are tied for the Blackhawks’ team lead in points (4), but the defense will be the key for Chicago tonight, as they look to stop a New York Islanders offense ranked no. 5 in the NHL in scoring (3.67 GPG).

A win at United Center would do wonders for a young Isles club poised to gain league-wide respect after last year’s hard-fought playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Defeating the defending Cup champs in their own building, however, is no easy task; the Hawks posted an 18-3-3 home-ice record in the lockout-shortened 2013-13 season.

Cal Clutterbuck will make his Islanders debut tonight, likely replacing rookie Brock Nelson on the third line alongside Pierr-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin.

What They’re Saying…

We have to finish stronger regardless of the score. We got caught a few times tonight, and they scored two goals off it. We won’t get frustrated, but definitely feel we have some work to do.–Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on his team’s loss to the St. Louis Blues
Huge test. We’re playing the Stanley Cup champs and they’re champs for a reason. They do a lot of things right. Offensively, they’re the best team in the league to me as far as the skill level they have.–Islanders head coach Jack Capuano on the Chicago Blackhawks

Quick Hitters…

  • The Islanders are 6-1-2 in their last nine games against the Blackhawks, including 3-1-1 in their last five games in Chicago
  • Fran Nielsen (1G, 4A) is the only Isles player with at least one point in each of the team’s first three games
  • John Tavares leads all Islanders with an active streak of 210 consecutive regular-season games played
  • Rookie defenseman Matt Donovan scored his first career NHL goal during Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes; Donovan led all AHL defensemen in scoring last season with 48 points (14G, 34A)

Projected Lineup:

26 Moulson – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
12 Bailey – 51 Nielsen – 40 Grabner
96 Bouchard – 16 Regin – 15 Clutterbuck
17 Martin – 53 Cizikas – 13 McDonald

47 MacDonald – 3 Hamonic
11 Visnovsky – 14 Hickey
37 Strait – 46 Donovan

60 Poulin
20 Nabokov

Scratches: 36 Boulton, 7 Carkner, 29 Nelson