New York Islanders Vs Florida Panthers : Pre-Game Report


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


Tonight, the New York Islanders (18-22-7, 43 points) take on the Florida Panthers (17-21-7, 41 points) in game no. 48 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

When: Tuesday, January 14th , 7:30 pm EST

Watch: MSG+2  (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)

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

Opposition Blog: The Rat Trick

The New York Islanders go for a franchise record tonight when they visit the BB&T Center in sunny Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers.

New York has won 7 straight away from the Nassau Coliseum, becoming the first team in the National Hockey League this year to do so, and are 9-3-0 over their past 12 games.  While that all sounds encouraging and the team has beaten opponents of high quality during the stretch, it has not been enough to get them closer than 8 points from a guaranteed playoff spot in their division or 7 points out of a wild card spot.

That could all change drastically over the course of the next three weeks as the Islanders now begin a stretch of 6 straight conference (4 divisional) games including 2 versus the Philadelphia Flyers. After a brief reprieve, they will again go big as they play the rival New York Rangers three times in the months final two weeks, including the stadium series matchup at Yankee Stadium.

Captain John Tavares, fresh off a 10 point week, was named the NHLs first star of the week yesterday, an honor well deserved. Tavares has really kept his head lately, fighting off tons of horrible officiating to get even on the scoresheet.

The first line with Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek has clearly been the league’s best over the course of the past three weeks and could only mean positive thoughts for Vanek as he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

With Lubomir Visnovsky still out of the lineup with a concussion, Calvin de Haan continues to play outstanding hockey that does not speak of his young age and rookie status. Matt Donovan has also had three strong outings since returning from Bridgeport in exchange for Aaron Ness.

Kevin Poulin will run the table with the starting job over the course of the next week or so, which is when Evgeni Nabokov is expected back from his muscle injury. If Poulin continues to shine as he has lately, winning 5 consecutive decisions for the first time in his career, does Nabokov even get the job back? Safe thinking is he does, but that it could be more of a time-share than originally planned.

The Panthers have been playing much better hockey over the course of their past 15 games, going 8-7 in that span, however still have holes all over their lineup. Currently ranked 28th in goals per game, 24th in goals against, 30th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill, it might seem like an easy game for New York but we all know that will certainly not be the case. The Islanders are going to have to come out as if they were playing one of the league’s elite to take the two points on the road.

On offense, there is not much to speak of, with Aleksander Barkov leading the team in scoring with just 7-15-22 in 45 games. Ex-Islander Brad Boyes leads the team with 12 goals.

The blueline is led by veteran Brian Campbell, still producing with 5-14-19 and ex-Edmonton Oiler Tom Gilbert.

In goal, Islander fans cannot forget Tim Thomas, can we? He returned to the league in training camp, winning a job with the young Panthers and has produced a record of 11-11-3 with a 2.57 GAA and .916 save percentage. He gets the start tonight.

Florida comes in healthy, with no major injuries to speak of.

This is a trap game if I ever saw one. The Islanders need to come out flying in the first period and get the game under control right away. It could be very dangerous and detrimental to let the Panthers think they can hang around late into the second and third periods.

Let’s hope Jack Capuano gets the word out and the players respond to the message.

What They’re Saying

  •  “We’re competing. We’re defending a little better,” said coach Jack Capuano, whose club is in the midst of its longest winning streak since February 2011. “Playing more within the team concept. I think when you can utilize your four lines that we do, a lot of guys the minutes are distributed.”
  • “It’s good to have a team that can play the third period as their best period, whether you’re ahead or behind,” defenseman Calvin de Haan told the Islanders’ official website.
  • “We think we can play a lot better,” Florida’s Tim Thomas told the NHL’s official website after making 34 saves to fall to 11-11-3 with a 2.57 goals-against average. “We’re happy that somehow we eked out a point, but we can play better than that. We have played better than that.”

Quick Hitters

  •  The Isles swept all three games last season by a combined 12-5 score and have won 4 straight overall against the Panthers.
  • All-Time Record: 34-37-10
  • Overall Streak: The Islanders are on a four-game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight games. They are 10-4-2 in their last 16 games. The last time the Islanders had a five-game winning streak was February of 2008.
  • Road Streak: The Islanders are on a seven-game road winning streak, good for the second longest road win streak in franchise history. They had a franchise-record, eight-game streak in 1980-81.
  • 5 Straight For Poulin: Kevin Poulin is on a career-high, five-game win streak (5-0-0). He is 6-1-0 in his last seven games. Poulin is the first Islander goalie since Rick DiPietro (February 12-21, 2008; 6 straight) to win at least fove straight games
  • Who’s Hot: Calvin de Haan is on a four-game point streak (1g/5a). John Tavares has 17 points (8g/9a) in eight games since returning from a lower-body injury. Thomas Vanek has six assists in his last five games and 17 points (5g/12a) in his last 12 games. Kyle Okposo has three goals in his last three games and 19 points (11g/8a) in his last 15 games. Brock Nelson has three goals in his last four games.
  • NHL Scoring Race: John Tavares is tied for second in the NHL scoring race with 56 points (21g/35a). Kyle Okposo ranks 13th in the league with 45 points (19g/26a).

Projected Lineup

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

47 MacDonald – 37 Strait
44  de Haan – 14 Hickey
7 Carkner – 46 Donovan

60 Poulin

45 Nilsson

Scratches: 3 Hamonic (upper body – DTD)16 Regin (healthy)36 Boulton (healthy)

Injured Reserve: 4 Martinek, 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov