New York Islanders vs. Minnesota Wild: Pre-Game Report

Dec 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders right wing

Kyle Okposo

(21) skates with the puck in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. New York won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the New York Islanders (11-21-7, 29 Points) visit the Minnesota Wild (20-15-5, 45 Points) in game no. 39 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN

When: Sunday, December 29th, 2013, 8 PM

TV: MSG+ (Jiggs McDonald, Butch Goring)

Radio: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)

Opposition Blog: Gone Puck Wild

If there was any good feeling after the Islanders win against Detroit before Christmas, it disappeared last night in a 2-1 loss to the Devils. For those that have watched this team all season, the Devils’ game-winning goal seemed like the perfect description of our season so far. What can go wrong, will go wrong.

But visiting a slumping Minnesota Wild side, that has lost its last four games, the Islanders receive good news that John Tavares will indeed return to the line-up tonight after missing Saturday night’s game with a lower body injury. Couple that with a .500 record over the past four games (you have to take the small victories), and the Islanders can be flipping the calendar year on a bit of a high note.

Michael Grabner (illness) and Josh Bailey (upper body) will not be playing tonight while Kevin Poulin will be getting his first start in net since December 12. Poulin is 4-12 in 16 appearances this season, the 12 losses rank fifth-most among all NHL goaltenders this season. Minnesota’s Zach Parise has been placed on injured reserved with a bruised foot that he injured back on November 25.

There will be reunions and homecomings of sorts as Cal Clutterbuck will make his return to Minnesota after spending five seasons with the Wild while the Islanders will see former prospect Nino Niederreiter for the first time since they traded him for Clutterbuck.

While the Islanders sport the worst defense in the NHL, their last two games have provided some uncharacteristically good play, giving up just one goal in its last two games. Chalk that up to the return of Nabokov or the unit is finally gelling together, but it will be seen tonight just what the defense is made of with Poulin in net.

What They’re Saying

“That type of thing, ‘We played well,’ doesn’t cut it anymore. We have to find a way to get points. It’s kind of old music for us. All of this, ‘We played well but we can’t catch a break,’ well, we have to find a way to catch a break. That’s what good teams do.”

-Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov after the team’s loss to New Jersey on Saturday night

“I’m just disappointed that once we scored the goal we let them back in and we kind of sat back again. It’s almost like we’re satisfied with the one point.”

-Islanders winger Frans Nielsen

“It was a typical Islanders-Devils game. They got the shot and the bounce at the end. It’s a process. [We’ve] got to do a better job teaching these kids, and they’re going to go through some growing pains.”

-Islanders head coach Jack Capuano

“We don’t have the luxury of finding reasons for things not being OK. We’re in a position where we have to make things right.”

-Wild head coach Mike Yeo

Quick Hitters

– The Islanders’ three wins this month are the least so far this season. It might seem obvious, but the Islanders have won four games in October and November respectively. The last time the Islanders won twice in one week was November 12 and 16.

– Frans Nielsen has scored three goals in his past five games and currently is on a five-game point streak. Kyle Okposo is also on a five game point streak.

– The Wild has lost seven of its last 10 games, but begin a four-game home-stand tonight against the Islanders.

Jason Pominville leads the Wild with 17 goals this season, tied for 12th best in the NHL.

– Josh Bailey will not be in tonight’s line-up for the Islanders. He has not scored a goal since October 25.

Projected Lineup

26 Thomas Vanek– 91 John Tavares- 21 Kyle Okposo

16 Peter Regin– 51 Frans Nielsen- 29 Brock Nelson

36 Eric Boulton– 18 Ryan Strome– 15 Cal Clutterbuck

17 Matt Martin– 53 Casey Cizikas– 13 Colin McDonald

47 Andrew MacDonald– 14 Thomas Hickey

3 Travic Hamonic- 44 Calvin de Haan

7 Matt Carkner– 37 Brian Strait

60 Kevin Poulin

20 Evgeni Nabokov

Scratches: 12 Josh Bailey, 40 Michael Grabner

Injured Reserve: 11 Lubomir Visnovksy, 4 Radek Martinek