New York Islanders vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Pre-Game Report

Oct 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) fight for the puck during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the New York Islanders (13-21-7, 33 points) take on the Chicago Blackhawks (28-7-7, 63 points) in game no. 42 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

When: Thursday, January 2nd, 7PM

Watch: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)

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

Opposition Blog: Blackhawk Up

The Islanders’ first game of 2014 is a big one, as they take on the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Islanders lost the only other meeting between the two teams this year by a score of 3-2.

However, the Islanders probably have a better chance at winning tonight than they did back on October 11th. The Islanders seem to be getting back on track, as they’ve won two games in impressive, come-from-behind wins against good hockey teams in the Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins. The Orange and Blue battled back from 3 goal and 2 goal deficits, respectively, to win two big road games.

Now, with a rather hot team coming back to their home ice, while it’ll certainly be a tough game to win, there’s definitely reason to feel confident coming into tonight.

The Islanders will run the same lineups as they did in Boston, meaning goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will be starting in goal tonight. Nabokov has been very good since coming back from his groin u=injury, posting a  .925 SV% in his 7 games played since returning from his injury.

More roster news, Radek Martinek was activated of Injured Reserve, and he was practicing with the team today as per Matt Saidman of LIB Magazine. However, it doesn’t look like Martinek will see much time, as Arthur Staple of Newsday reported that it looks as if Matt Donovan will finally be called up from Bridgeport. Since his demotion on Thanksgiving, Donovan has recorded 13 points in 17 games played in the AHL. In exchange, Aaron Ness will be sent down to Bridgeport. Ness played 20 games in the NHL, posting 1 goal and 3 assists during that time.

As for Chicago, Corey Crawford will be making his first start in goal since a lower body injury sustained December 8th. Crawford has been pretty solid this year, posting a .905 SV%, and a 2.47 GAA along with a solid 17-6-5 record.

With that said, expect a high scoring game, with a powerful Chicago offense and a streaking Islanders offense shooting on a goalie who hasn’t played in almost a month. Two points here would be big for the Islanders, and if they play the way they’ve played the last few games, they could come out as victors tonight.

What They’re Saying

“I feel great. I’m excited to start playing again. It’s been a little too long. It’ll be nice to get back into a game,” says Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who will be getting his first start in nearly a month.

“I think this game, even though we didn’t have a great start, we just stuck with it.  Being down by a goal on the road isn’t always the worst thing in the world, you just have to turn the page. We did a better job in the second period, we seemed to get our legs going… and obviously the power play, it’s good to see it come through in a big way,” Islanders forward John Tavares said after the team’s New Year’s Eve win against Boston.

“Right now, where with we’re at, whatever it takes” was Islanders coach Jack Capuano‘s quote on the way the Islanders are coming from behind to win games.

Quick Hitters

  • John Tavares scored 44 in the 2013 calendar year. Only Alex Ovechkin (62) and Patrick Kane (46) scored more.
  • Evgeni Nabokov has gone 3-2-2 since his return.

    The Isles are 13-4-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-17-5 when they do not.

    The Islanders have a 39-42-20-2 all time record against the Blackhawks.

  • Andrew MacDonald leads the NHL with 138 blocked shots.
  • Matt Martin leads the NHL with 196 hits
  • Projected Lineup

    26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
    40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 15 Clutterbuck
    29 Nelson – 18 Strome – 13 McDonald
    16 Regin – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin

    47 MacDonald – 14 Hickey
    44 de Haan – 3 Hamonic
    37 Strait – 7 Carkner

    20 Nabokov
    60 Poulin

    Scratches: 12 Bailey, 36 Boulton, 4 Martinek

    Injured Reserve: 11 Visnovsky