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

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports


Tonight, the New York Islanders (15-22-7, 37 points) take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (21-17-5, 47 points) in game no. 45 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, January 7th, 7:00 pm EST

Watch: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)

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

Opposition Blog: Editor In Leaf

The New York Islanders invade Toronto for the second time this season playing without a doubt their most inspired hockey of the 2013-14 season.

The team we have seen over the past 9 games is the one from last season’s improbable run to the playoffs. Playing with heart, grit and determination even when trailing by as many as 3 goals in a game.

New York has won four of their last five and six of nine. In the five game stretch, they have scored 22 goals, an average of 4.4 per game. What has been the quality of opponents you say? How does the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars sound?

In last night’s 7-3 thrashing of the Stars, all the youngsters got into the fray. Ryan Strome collected his first National Hockey League goal on a second period power play, Brock Nelson picked up a goal on a beautiful rush and wrist shot from the high slot, Calvin deHaan picked up his first two NHL points (assists) and Matt Donovan made his mark by leading all forwards and defenseman in Corsi and Fenwick advanced statistics.

Not to mention the hat trick and five point performance by captain John Tavares. The outburst moves Tavares into third place in the NHL scoring race, trailing only Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane.

There was a price to pay however. Lost amid the good feelings and goals was another injury suffered by starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. While stretching to make a pad stop in the first period, he immediately clutched what looked to be his thigh as initial indications pointed to a muscular injury of some sort. Missing time earlier with a groin issue in the same leg, the team immediately placed him on the IR list after the game and he is scheduled to be re-examined today. Anders Nilsson has been recalled from Bridgeport on an emergency loan.

Toronto comes in with a very deceiving record of 21-17-5. Only 18th in goals scored, 19th in goals against and 27th on the penalty kill, all things point to a regression of some sorts for this hockey club.

The Maple Leafs lost 4 of 5 before reeling off 3 consecutive wins. They then proceeded to get absolutely blown out of Air Canada Centre by the New York Rangers, losing 7-1.

With Jonathan Bernier starting the previous six games for Toronto, he will again draw the start tonight against the Islanders. James Reimer has been riding the bench for a long stretch now as head coach Randy Carlyle obviously seems more comfortable with the off-season acquisition. Bernier on the season is 13-12-4 with 2.53 GAA and .928 save percentage.

Leading the way offensively for Toronto is Olympian Phil Kessel with 20-18-38 in 43 games played. Middletown, New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk is second with 15-15-30 in 41 games.

Last time these teams met, Toronto scored three third period goals to defeat the Islanders 5-2. Kessel scored twice and Joffrey Lupul collected three assists.

What They’re Saying

  •  “A lot of people dream of those nights,” coach Jack Capuano said. “Any time (Tavares) has a night like that, it’s nice to win the hockey game.”
  • “My message was it was unacceptable to play and to feel that we were not embarrassed by what our performance was,” Carlyle said. “And I stressed we.”
  • “As I stated right after that, we wanted to make sure we didn’t come up with a flat performance; and we did,” he said. “Now’s the time to regroup, re-energize our group, reinforce some of the things that we know we can improve on and to get ourselves ready to face the New York Islanders.”

Quick Hitters

  • Point Streaks: Thomas Vanek is on a career-high, nine-game point streak (5g/9a). John Tavares has points in his last six games (7g/6a).
  • Assist Streak: Andrew MacDonald is on a five-game assist streak (0g/8a), with multiple assists in three of his last four games. He’s one game shy of tying the team season high, a six-game assist streak set by John Tavares (6a) from Oct. 15-26.
  • Road Win Streak: The Islanders are on a four-game road winning streak. They’ve won five of their last six road games, with victories over San Jose, the Rangers, Detroit, Minnesota and Boston.
  • 2013 Goals: John Tavares scored 44 goals in the 2013 calendar year. Only Alex Ovechkin (62) and Patrick Kane (46) scored more.
  • Need For 3: The Isles are 15-4-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-18-5 when they do not.

Projected Lineup

26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
29 Nelson – 18 Strome – 15 Clutterbuck
13 McDonald – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin

47 MacDonald – 37 Strait
44  de Haan – 3  Hamonic
14 Hickey – 46 Donovan

60 Poulin

45 Nilsson

Scratches: 7 Carkner16 Regin36 Boulton

Injured Reserve: 4 Martinek, 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov