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Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report
Tonight, the New York Islanders (8-13-3, 19 points) take on the Winnipeg Jets (11-11-4, 26 points) in Game 25 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…
Where: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
When: Wednesday, November 27th, 7:00 p.m. EST
Watch: MSG+2 (SD) – Howie Rose, Butch Goring
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRCN – Chris King
Tickets: NY Islanders tickets
To say the New York Islanders are limping home would be an understatement. Losers of eight out of their last ten, seven straight on the road and to boot, owning the league’s 28th ranked defense and 30th ranked penalty kill.
But all is not decided 25 games into a long, marathon type hockey season. There is still time for New York to turn things around and get the ship righted and sailing straight again. Remember they were in a similar position early last season before embarking on a tremendous stretch of 23 games that put them into the playoffs.
The first step is getting healthy. While Lubomir Visnovsky traveled with the team on their most recent road trip and worked out off the ice, he still has not skated. Brian Strait was seen yesterday smiling outside the Islanders locker room but also has not taken the ice since his very mysterious upper body injury. Starting goaltender? Evgeni Nabokov is expected to be out for another 3 weeks with a groin strain.
On the flip side of the injury ledger is the good news that Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Hickey both skated yesterday and are looking none the worse for wear after getting injured over the course of the past week (Hickey vs Philadelphia on Saturday and MacDonald in practice on Monday). The Islanders actually practiced their penalty kill on Monday with rubber pucks as if the grey clothed injury ninja was hovering over the Coliseum in Uniondale.
Special teams continue to bear the brunt of responsibility early on for the Islanders troubles, as they have had numerous chances to turn momentum on a power play or come up with a big penalty kill, both of which are just not happening right now. As mentioned, the penalty kill is an absolute mess and ranked last, while the power play has slipped to 21st also, converting only 16.5% of the time and currently mired in a 2 for 26 slump.
Winnipeg comes in not much better, even though the record might indicate such at 11-11-4. They are currently ranked 22nd in offense, 21st in defense, 27th on the power play and 14th on the penalty kill.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian is out of the lineup with a groin injury that has him on the injured reserve list.
Bryan Little paces the offense with 12-12-24 in 26 games and always dangerous Dustin Byfuglien has 6-15-21 to lead the blueline corps in offensive scoring. Captain Andrew Ladd is having a typical solid year with 19 points but Evander Kane has now gone goal-less in his last eight contests.
Ex-Islander Al Montoya gets the start for the Jets in goal tonight as the Islanders will see a backup for the 12th time in their first 25 games. Montoya is appearing in his 7th game of the season and comes in 2-2-1 with 2.49 GAA and .913 save percentage.
What They’re Saying…
- “Any win is good, but getting one to start a six-game road trip, we needed this one,” Olli Jokinen said. “It was like a must-win for us to get back to .500 and feel good about ourselves moving forward.” [link]
- Coach Jack Capuano also spoke about how helpful it is that his players know how good they can be: “That’s the positive side of it. We can’t change the way we that we need to play. We’ve got a lot of the same guys. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the injuries. It is what it is.“ [link]
- Capuano spoke Tuesday about what he wants to see from his team, and effort is a big part of it: “When you work, things happen for you. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are. You have to be tough to play against and that’s what we were last year, down the stretch. He continued, “You can’t get beat off the wall. That’s something our guys see, and they have to understand that. They have to believe in one another and trust one another, but at the end of the day you have to win your battles. I’ve been saying that since day one. Nothing changes. [link]
- Islanders all-time versus the Jets are 28-17-6
- NHL Scoring Race: John Tavares is tied for fifth in the NHL scoring race with 27 points (10g/17a); he’s four points off the league lead. Frans Nielsen (10g/12a) and Kyle Okposo (6g/16a) are tied for 24th in league scoring with 22 points each.
- Streaking: Casey Cizikas is on a career-high, five-game point streak (3g/2a).
- Seven Straight: Goaltender Kevin Poulin has appeared in seven consecutive Islanders games. His previous high for consecutive appearances was three games (twice), most recently set Feb. 18-21, 2012.
- Need For 3: The Isles are 8-2-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-11-1 when they do not
- Dustin Byfuglien recorded two assists on Nov. 25 at NJD (3-1 W) and ranks second in scoring among all NHL defencemen with 21 points (6G, 15A) in 26 games played.
- The Jets have surrendered four shorthanded goals this season tying for the most in the NHL.
26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
96 Bouchard – 16 Regin – 15 Clutterbuck
17 Martin –-53 Cizikas – 29 Nelson
47 MacDonald – 3 Hamonic
14 Hickey -46 Donovan
55 Ness -7 Carkner
Scratches: 4 Martinek, 13 McDonald, 36 Boulton
Injured Reserve: 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov, 37 Strait
Rich Dias (@RDNHL) is covering the game for Eyes on Isles from the press box. Follow him for updates throughout the contest.