Top Shelf – Islanders Daily 1/6/14

Matt Donovan

(46) is expected to return to the New York Islanders lineup and bolster a struggling defense. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the New York Islanders look to bounce-back from a defeating 3-2 loss, suffered at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and the rest of the Dallas Stars are in town to provide the Islanders with a tough test in New York’s defensive zone, which continues to be a large part of the problem on Long Island.

Against the Hurricanes, the Islanders suffered another one of their “microwave breakdowns,” allowing two goals in a 57-second-span during the game’s second period, a common denominator to many of the Islanders losses throughout the 2013-14. Exhausting all in-house options, the team is hurting on the blue-line, no matter which way you slice it.

Matt Donovan is expected to receive his first opportunity with the NHL roster since his demotion to the AHL back in November, so the Islanders will have a chance to gauge his development after recording 14 points in 17 minor-league contests. With Lubomir Visnovsky out for the foreseeable future, it could be time to see what he can bring to the team’s power play unit, which continues to be flaky in important situations.

The Islanders have certainly been better over their last 10 games (5-3-2), but that won’t cut it if they want to get back into the playoff race. This team is going to have to string together more than three consecutive wins, and they’re going to need a defense playing above and beyond, similar to last season. Hopefully, Donovan can improve a struggling defensive unit enough to help the Islanders move ahead in the standings.

In case you missed it:

Around the NHL:

  • Pittsburgh Penguins 6, Winnipeg Jets 5: PIT (Malkin [2], Neal [2], Jokinen, Niskanen), WPG (Trouba, Scheifele, Wheeler, Kane [2]) – In what turned out to be anything but a goalie duel, Evgeni Malkin scored two goals in his return to the Penguins lineup, and Matt Niskanen scored the game-winning goal with 7:22 remaining. Seven goals were scored in the second period.
  • Carolina Hurricanes 2, Nashville Predators 1: CAR (Semin, Skinner), NSH (Hornqvist) – Jeff Skinner scored his 20th goal of the season in 32 games with 3:31 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin started his 3rd straight game.
  • Edmonton Oilers 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3: EDM (Eberle [2], Gazdic, Gordon, Hall), TBL (Kucherov, Hedman, Filppula) – Ben Bishop left the game with an upper-body injury after allowing a goal on the first shot of the game, and Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 25 shots in relief.
  • San Jose Sharks 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 SO: SJS (Demers, Burns, Couture SO Winner), CHI (Hjalmarsson, Rosival) – Jumbo Joe Thornton extended his point streak to 8 games (0-12-12), and Logan Couture netted the shootout-winning goal for the Sharks.
  • Anaheim Ducks 4, Vancouver Canucks 3 OT: ANA (Koivu, Beleskey, Bonino, Perry), VAN (Kesler, H. Sedin, Bieksa) – Nick Bonino tied the game at 3 with 1:27 remaining in the third, and Corey Perry scored with :01.3 remaining in overtime to give the Ducks a share of the NHL lead in the standings. Anaheim outshot Vancouver 49-20.

Across the Sound:

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers dropped both games to the Norfolk Admirals over the weekend, earning a total of one point in the standings. Bridgeport sits in 14th-place in the AHL Eastern Conference, four points ahead of the Hartford Wolf Pack.