Game Preview: NY Islanders @ Montreal Canadiens

Vegas Golden Knights v New York Islanders
Vegas Golden Knights v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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New head coach Patrick Roy and his NY Islanders (20-16-11) head to the Bell Center to take on the Montreal Canadiens (19-21-7) in Roy's return to Quebec. Before signing with the Islanders just a week ago, Roy was coaching the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL. Roy is also a former Hab, getting inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of their team, and having won two of his Stanley Cups with the franchise. Tonight's matchup will be an emotional one for the head coach who isn't afriad to show his emotions from behind the bench.

LAST GAME

The Isles fell 3-2 to the Vegas Golden Nights on Tuesday night, their first loss with Roy behind the bench, but much improvement was shown since the recent losing streak under Lane Lambert, and the first game Roy coached. The Islanders seem to be finding their rhythm again under Roy's defense-first coaching mentality, but are still playing great on offense. Vegas' Aidan Hill stopped 41 of 42 shots faced, and the Islanders only allowed Vegas 27 shots on Ilya Sorokin. The Isles played a great game against Vegas, but it was small but costly mistakes that brought them down. Ivan Barbashev opened the scoring in the first, but Brock Nelson tied it at one just minutes into the second period for his 500th NHL point. A defensive-zone turnover by Adam Pelech led to Sheldon Rempal's first NHL goal and a Vegas lead. Nicholas Roy got the Knights up by two before the end of the second. Shorthanded specialists JG Pageau and Simon Holmstrom did it again, but this time in reverse, as Pageau scored a shorthanded goal to bring the Islanders within one. The Islanders fought until the final buzzer, but couldn't get another past Hill despite their strong effort. Despite the loss, Roy was proud of the way the Islanders played. And while there is still room for improvement the mentality of this team compared to the way it was just a week ago is like night and day. The team looks happy to play again and are putting everything they have on the ice.

Montreal also played on Tuesday night, losing 4-1 to Canadian rivals the Ottawa Senators. Long Island native Shane Pinto, who was suspended 41 games for breaking the NHL's sport betting policy, returned to the lineup and scored his first of the season for Ottawa. Johnathan Kovacevic scored the lone goal for the Habs a little over halfway through the third period.

HISTORICAL MATCHUP

The Isles and Habs last faced off on December 16th when the Isles fell 5-3. The Islanders allowed four goals in the second period, another showing of how undisciplined they were under the former head coach. A scoreless first period, and a dominating second by the Habs, had the Isles down by 4 heading into the third. Joel Armia and Cole Caufield both scored for the Habs, and Josh Anderson had back-to-back tallies to give the Habs the lead. Nelson scored twice in the third, along with a goal by Bo Horvat to bring the Islanders within one with six minutes remaining. Christian Dvorak iced the game with an empty net goal to give the Habs the 5-3 victory.

Tonight will look much different than the last matchup against the Habs. All eyes will be in Quebec native Patrick Roy in his return to the city. Roy made the decision to cancel morning skate for the Isles, saying he wants their focus to be on the game, not on any extra meaning or distractions involved. We all know the Canadian media can be tough on players, and Roy wants his players heads to be in the game tonight. Roy has not been against the Quebec since his time as a coach for the Colorado Avalanche in 2013.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nelson looks to continue his hot streak and build on 500 career points. He has two goals in his last 5 games, including the one on Tuesday. Noah Dobson has five assists in his last three games and has been one of the best skaters for the Islanders recently. He has been playing great under Roy, balancing his offensive prowess and his defensive capabilities have only improved. All eyes continue to be on the goaltenders, who struggled a lot under the former head coach this season. With Roy being one of the best NHL goaltenders in history, and the former head coach of Semyon Varlamov in Colorado, we're all excited to see what this new coaching style will do for the goaltender's confidence and stats. Varlamov is expected to make his first start under his former head coach. When asked about his reaction to Roy being named head coach, Varlamov stated: "I'm not going to lie. I had goose bumps."

Young star Cole Caufield has 7 points in his last five games (4G, 3A) and has yet to be held off the scoresheet over that same period. He's a small and fast player, and while he doesn't throw the body around, he's a threat every time he steps onto the ice. Caufield struggled to find his game earlier this season, but he's been feeling himself lately and the old Caufield is back and dangerous.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

ISLANDERS

Anders Lee - Bo Horvat – Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom – J.G. Pageau – Julien Gauthier
Matt Martin – Kyle MacLean - Cal Clutterbuck

Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech – Sebastian Aho
Samuel Bolduc – Scott Mayfield

Ilya Sorokin
Semyon Varlamov

Canadiens

Cole Caufield - Nick Suzuki – Josh Anderson
Juraj Slafkovsky - Sean Monahan – Joel Armia
Rafael Harvey-Pinard – Jake Evans – Brendan Gallagher
Michael Pezzetta– Tanner Pearson - Jesse Ylönen

David Savard - Michael Matheson
Jayden Struble – Kaiden Guhle
Arber Xhekaj – Johnathan Kovacevic

Samuel Montembeault
Jake Allen

Montreal lines per Daily Faceoff