New York Islanders Vs Toronto Maple Leafs : Pre-Game Report


John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report

Tonight, the New York Islanders (8-10-3, 19 points) take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (12-7-1, 25 points) in Game 22 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: Tuesday, Nov. 19th, 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: MSG+ (HD) – Howie Rose, Butch Goring
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRCN – Chris King

Tickets: NY Islanders tickets

The New York Islanders kick off a three game road trip as they play the Toronto Maple Leafs in Ontario this evening in the first of three meeting this season between the two teams.

Islanders fans on Twitter have been begging head coach Jack Capuano to show some accountability to the players for their uneven play so far this season and he has done just that. Michael Grabner will not play tonight as a healthy scratch. With Thomas Vanek still not ready to get back to action following his muscle strain, Eric Boulton will be re-inserted and play on a fourth line with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. Given the tension filled history between these two teams, it is probably a very good idea.

Grabner has not scored since opening night in New Jersey, a span of 21 games and has missed several key scoring chances which could have altered the outcome of some games this year. It might be a good idea for him to watch from the press box.

Kevin Poulin, the newly anointed number one goaltender in the wake of Evgeni Nabokov‘s injury, gets his first taste of the role this evening. Poulin will be making his fourth start in the past five games (appearing in all however) and brings a 2.51,.909 stat line into the contest. Anders Nilsson was recalled from Bridgeport to serve as the backup for what could be as long as four weeks or more. Two 23 year old goaltenders are going to make or break the season for New York, with the rest of the Metropolitan Division playing better and getting healthier.

Toronto, after a red-hot start, has won just once in its past four games. Leading scorer Phil Kessel, battling the flu, will play tonight but the Maple Leafs will be missing Mark Fraser and Tyler Bozak. Toronto still has New Jersey native and ex-Flyer James van Riemsdyk, dangerous around the goal, with 9-6-15 in 18 games this season.

The Islanders would be wise to keep an eye on Nazem Kadri as well, not so much for his talented offensive play, but for his chippiness that has showed recently. Running around the ice with abandon, he is just back from serving a three game suspension.

Jonathan Bernier gets the start in goal for the home team (7-5-1, 2.05, .938).

What They’re Saying…

“He means a lot to this team, all of us,” center John Tavares said about Nabokov. “Not everyone knows how much he does for us in this room. He’s important.” [link]

“I love this,” Poulin said of his new role. “I was not nervous in the shootout, was pretty excited, actually. I felt comfortable. You have to be ready to jump in. That’s why I play hockey.” [link]

“I’m probably a little more comfortable playing there,” van Riemsdyk said of his switch back to left wing. “It allows me to do some different things. Being in front of the net a lot more often, that’s a big part of my game obviously.” [link]

“It’s obviously really exciting to be playing with JVR and Phil,” Holland said upon arriving in Toronto. “Two pretty special players. So to step in to the lineup and play with those guys is pretty fun. I thought we created some chances.” [link]

Quick Hitters…

  • Phil Kessel leads all Toronto players in career goals (11), assists (11) and points (22) in 26 games against NY Islanders
  • The Maple Leafs ended their 13-game span (Oct. 8-Nov. 8) of being outshot on Nov. 9 when they matched the Bruins with 34 shots in a 3-1 loss.
  • The Isles have won their last three games in Toronto, outscoring the Leafs 17-9, and are 3-0-2 overall their last five games against Toronto.
  • John Tavares ranks third in the NHL scoring race with 25 points (9g/16a); he’s one point off the league lead. Frans Nielsen is tied for 16th with 21 points (9g/12a), while Kyle Okposo is tied for 18th place in the league with 20 points (6g/14a).
  • The Isles have trailed at some point in five of their eight wins this season, including all three of their road victories.

Projected Lineup…

29 Nelson – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
13 McDonald – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
96 Bouchard – 16 Regin – 15 Clutterbuck
17 Martin – 53 Cizikas – 36 Boulton

47 MacDonald – 3 Hamonic
14 Hickey – 46 Donovan
55 Ness – 7 Carkner

60 Poulin
45 Nilsson

Scratches: 4 Martinek, 26 Vanek, 40 Grabner
Injured Reserve: 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov, 37 Strait