Pregame Report: St. Louis Blues vs. New York Islanders

Dec 5, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Islanders right wing

Kyle Okposo

(21) controls the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the New York Islanders (21-25-7, 49 pts) play host to the St. Louis Blues (34-11-5, 73 pts) in game no. 54 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
When: Saturday Jan. 25th, 1:00 p.m. EST
Watch: MSG+
Listen: 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM WRCN

The Isles enter today’s game against the Blues 12-6 in their last 18 games, stretching back to their Dec. 20 win at Madison Square Garden over the New York Rangers. Most recently, though, the Islanders are coming off a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins despite having led 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game.

If the Isles are going to make a push for the playoffs—or at least a push to entice Thomas Vanek to re-sign with the team long-term—they’ll need to start closing the door in games where they hold a lead.

Today’s game will be no easy task. The Blues have 73 points, the third-most in the NHL, and are sitting in second place in the Central Division. The team announced that leading point scorer Alexander Steen will sit out in order to recover from a lower body injury sustained in St. Louis’s last game against the Rangers.

Steen leads the team with 26 goals and 42 points. At least the Islanders’ defense won’t have to deal with one of the NHL’s best players. But, with a team of St. Louis’s caliber, there are several other weapons that can more than fill in for Steen.

Alex Pietrangelo and his team-leading 30 assists will be in the lineup, as will T.J. Oshie (41 pts) and David Backes (38 pts). Suffice it to say that the Isles won’t be getting a day off even though Steen will.

New York has some scorers on its roster, though: the top line of Vanek, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo has been on fire lately. (You know, in case you’ve been living under a rock.) If the Islanders are going to keep pace with one of the Western Conference’s top teams, they’ll need a strong game from their first line.

What They’re Saying…

“We have to defend harder. You can’t give a team with as much firepower as the Penguins all that time and space. We got away from how we have to play for about 10 minutes and it cost us.”–Islanders head coach Jack Capuano on his team’s effort against Pittsburgh
“You see the crowd, you’re in the city for a day or two, you feel that hype and you know what playing the New York Rangers brings. I think it brought the best out of us.”–Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden


Quick Hitters…

  • Today’s contest is the second of the two-game season series between the Blues and Islanders; St. Louis beat the Isles 5-1 at Scottrade Center in early December
  • The Islanders are 48-33-23 all-time against the Blues (1392-1387-347-99 all-time in franchise history)
  • Kyle Okposo has already tied his career high with 52 points this season; Frans Nielsen has tied his career high with 17 goals to date
  • The Isles’ top line has been on fire lately: John Tavares is on a five-game point streak (2G, 5A); Okposo has a four-game scoring streak (2G, 4A); and Vanek has points in six of the last seven games (3G, 5A)
  • The Islanders have rallied from a two-goal deficit to win an NHL-leading eight times this season

Projected Lineup:

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

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

60 Poulin
45 Nilsson

Scratches: 3 Hamonic, 4 Martinek, 36 Boulton
IR: 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov