The New York Islanders visit the suddenly struggling Nashville Predators tonight and attempt to reclaim first in the Metropolitan Division.
Following a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss in Dallas on Tuesday night, the New York Islanders head into Nashville trying to get back on track. This is the second and final meeting of the two teams this season. The Islanders defeated the Preds in their first meeting by a final score of 5-2 just two weeks ago at Nassau Coliseum.
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It seems as if ever since the Islanders defeated the Predators two weeks ago they have been struggling. The Central Division leading Preds have gone 2-4-1 since that loss to the aforementioned Isles and are currently mired in a four game losing streak which is their longest such streak thus far this season.
So what has been going wrong for Nashville? It seems that their offense has been slipping of late as they have scored just seven goals over this four game skid. This could prove bad tonight for the Isles as this highly skilled team may be due for a big night.
The Predators will start Pekka Rinne tonight between the pipes. Rinne has been one of the best goalies in the league thus far this season. The Preds starting netminder currently ranks second in the league in wins, goals against average and save percentage trailing Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price in all of those categories. The Isles will need to get bodies to the net tonight and make his life difficult in order to score goals.
For the Islanders, their group of forwards will have a different look to it tonight due to a suspension and the return of two of the wounded. Matt Martin was suspended for one game by the NHL yesterday following his kneeing major in Dallas on Tuesday night. The major penalty occurred just one minute into the game and Martin was immediately ejected. Returning to the lineup and replacing Martin tonight is tough guy Eric Boulton. Rookie centerman Kael Mouillierat was pulled from the lineup to make room for Casey Cizikas who has missed the Isles past eight games with a lower body injury. So tonight’s fourth line will feature Boulton,Cizikas, and Colin McDonald.
The Isles defense corps will remain the same and Jaroslav Halak gets his second straight start in net tonight for the Isles.
In other important injury news, Kyle Okposo has skated and participated in on-ice drills over the past two days at Iceworks and should return at some point later this month. Mikhail Grabovski was around the team when they were home over the past few weeks but there is not much news on him at this point. Tyler Kennedy was sent home from the road trip ahead of making his Islanders debut the other night to be re-evaluated for an upper body injury by team doctors.
What to Watch For:
For me, tonight’s matchup to watch is the battle of the NHL’s top rookie forwards in the Islanders Anders Lee and the Predators Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has been the Predators best offensive players all season, as he has notched 21 goals and 52 points. His fantastic shot and vision make him a player you have to be careful with at all times. Anders Lee has also been a force for the Islanders since his recall back in October. Lee has 21 goals and gets the start tonight alongside John Tavares.
Puck drop tonight in Nashville is scheduled for 8:00. Let’s Go Islanders!!