The New York Islanders (5-2) come into this cross-conference battle with the Dallas Stars (4-1-2) looking to start off on a new winning streak following their 3-2 win in Boston on Thursday night. Prior to that game against the Bruins, the Islanders were in the middle of a two game losing streak after starting the season with four straight victories. The Stars come into tonight’s match-up having defeated the Devils 3-2 in a shootout on Friday Night.
A major storyline for the Islanders tonight will be who will crack the lineup and who won’t at gametime. Defenseman Travis Hamonic has already been ruled out for the game and will be missing his second straight contest due to an upper body injury. Forwards Josh Bailey (broken hand) and Michael Grabner (Hernia surgery) are also out. It would appear that Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) will be a game time decision tomorrow night. We won’t know much in regards to the forward lines until Grabovki’s availability is made known.
Another question for the Islanders is who will get the start in goal. This is only a question because of Chad Johnson’s outstanding performance against the Bruins on Thursday and Jaroslav Halak’s not-so-outsanding performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. If I had to guess, I would say it’s Halak who gets the nod, but we will not know for sure until the morning skate.
UPDATE: As per the Islanders official Twitter account, Head Coach Jack Capuano has said that Chad Johnson will indeed get the start in net, and that he expects Grabovski to be a go. The official decision on Grabo will be made this afternoon. Also, Capuano said that the defense pairings will remain the same as Thursday against Boston.
As for Dallas, they come into Saturday’s contest sporting a five game point streak and on the back end of an abbreviated two game east coast road trip. They will be looking to end that road trip by taking four out of four possible points. Kari Lehtonen got the start for the Stars last night in New Jersey, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see backup goaltender Anders Lindback get the nod for the visitors. Lindback has appeared in one game this season in which he took the loss after allowing three goals on 29 shots against the Nashville Predators. He holds a 1-2 career record against the Islanders. Valeri Nichushkin, Sergei Gonchar and Patrik Nemeth have all been ruled out for Dallas.
The Stars possess one of the most lethal offenses in all of hockey as they currently sit at fifth in the NHL in scoring(3.29 GPG). Most of this lethal offense is held on the back of top line center Tyler Seguin who sits tied atop the NHL points leaderboard with who else but John Tavares. Jamie Benn (goals in five straight games) and Jason Spezza(points in four straight games) also come in red hot for the Stars.
Last year, the Islanders took both games from the Dallas Stars in two of the team’s best performances in their disappointing campaign. I would expect nothing but two more entertaining games from these two teams this season as they both possess some of the best young offensive talent the NHL has to offer. The Isles will need to bring their “A game” in both the defensive and offensive zones if they expect to win this game.
Saturday Night’s game at Nassau Coliseum can be found on MSG Plus with puck drop scheduled for 7:00 PM. Stay tuned right here to Eyes on Isles for a post game recap, highlighting all the happenings from tonight’s matchup of two of the top teams in the NHL. But for now I leave you with one three letter phrase: Let’s Go Islanders!