The NY Islanders (14-7-7, 35 points) will wrap up their 6-game homestand tonight against the Atlantic Division's first-place Boston Bruins (18-5-4, 40 points).
On Wednesday, the Islanders overcame more adversity on defense as they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 at UBS Arena. From the outset, the Islanders scratched Scott Mayfield with an upper-body injury, meaning the returning Sebastian Aho would have to play on his offside pairing with Mike Reilly. Matt Martin was also placed back on IR with a continuing upper-body injury, and defenseman Grant Hutton was recalled from Bridgeport.
Despite a 0-0 score after the first period, the Islanders outshot their opponents 13-2. The offense would keep up this pace into the second, with Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas scoring in the first seven minutes. The penalty kill continued to struggle, however, giving up a goal to Troy Terry and another to Adam Henrique in the second. The third period began ugly as usual, with Sam Carrick scoring to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. The Islanders wouldn't be embarrassed by a last-place team again, as the red-hot Mathew Barzal tied the game with a power-play goal. Minutes later, Simon Holmstrom followed with his 4th shorthanded goal with 1:33 left to seal the win at 4-3.
The Bruins are coming off a tough loss to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark. After scoring early on Morgan Geekie's 3rd goal of the season, the Devils came back 2:47 into the third period on a Dawson Mercer slapshot. The game would remain tied deep into overtime until Jack Hughes scored his 11th goal on an assist from Jesper Bratt to win the game 2-1.
The Islanders' struggles against the Bruins are not uncommon. Last season, the Islanders were 0-2-1 against the defending Presidents Trophy winners. Most recently, the Islanders did not fare well in their season series opener against the Bruins at TD Garden on November 9th. They fell behind early after a Trent Frederic goal against Ilya Sorokin, but Brock Nelson responded on the powerplay to tie the game at 1. Even after Charlie Coyle scored to make the game 2-1, Holmstrom had one of his now many shorthanded goals to tie the game at 2. It was the third period that bit the Islanders, as Coyle scored two more goals for the hat trick, leading the Bruins to a 5-2 victory.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
On the positive end for the Islanders, Barzal and Bo Horvat are red hot, with the ladder recording 12 points in the last eight games. Barzal has responded well since his one-game hiatus, having three goals and 7 points in the last four games. Palmieri has also heated up, scoring three goals in his last four appearances, enhancing the second line's production even further. On the negative side, Semyon Varlamov was responsible for all three Islanders' losses against the Bruins last season. Even though Varlamov has been his old dominant self this season, expect Ilya Sorokin to get the start at UBS Arena.
On the Bruins side, David Pastrňák has picked up where he left off last season, scoring 39 points in just 27 games. Brad Marchand has not lost a step at age 35, having 12 goals and 13 assists. The player to watch for is Coyle, who has goals in his last three appearances against the Islanders. The Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy always loves coming home and showing his James Norris Trophy-caliber ability. He is day-to-day availability for the game tonight.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom - J.G. Pageau – Julien Gauthier
Hudson Fasching - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Samuel Bolduc - Robert Bortuzzo
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho
Jake Debrusk - Morgan Geekie - David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand - Charlie Coyle - Trent Frederic
James van Riemsdyk - Matthew Poitras - Danton Heinen
Jakub Lauko - John Beecher - Oskar Steen
Hampus Lindholm - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Ian Mitchell
Mason Lohrei - Kevin Shattenkirk