The NY Islanders (19-12-10, 48 points) head to the home of country music to take on the Barry Trotz-led Nashville Predators (23-18-1, 47 points) at Bridgestone Arena.
The Islanders took on the Toronto Maple Leafs this past Thursday night at UBS Arena. Before the game, Lane Lambert listed Casey Cizikas as week-to-week with a lower-body injury, meaning the lines were completely shuffled. The new pairings fared well to start the game as Kyle Palmieri scored in the first 40 seconds on a powerplay goal set up beautifully by Mathew Barzal and Noah Dobson. However, the Maple Leafs would take over the ladder half of the period with Bobby McCann scoring on a wrist shot.
The Maple Leafs kept up the momentum into the second period as Auston Matthews scored twice in the first three minutes. The first came on a backhand shot that Ilya Sorokin would like to have back. The second came following a Dobson turnover that gave the Maple Leafs a 3-1 lead. However, this night belonged to Barzal as he set up a snipe shot by Alexander Romanov. Following the high-sticking penalty to Timothy Liljegren, Barzal set up Dobson for a 95+ MPH slap shot that was later credited to Bo Horvat, tying the game at three.
The third period was quiet for both sides as the Isles were outshot 9-3. Sorokin made a couple of great saves on former captain John Tavares, while Martin Jones made the save of the game on Hudson Fasching. The game went into overtime when Dobson set up Barzal for the game-winning tip-in shot 21 seconds in to win the game 4-3. Barzal and Dobson would leave the game with four points each, while Sorokin turned in 32 saves on 35 attempts.
The Predators are playing the second game of a back-to-back after heading to American Airlines Arena to play their division rival Dallas Stars. The game started slow with a 0-0 score until midway through the second period when Jeremy Lauzon and Thomas Novak scored within four minutes of each other. The Stars attempted a third period comeback with goals early from Jani Hakanpää and Wyatt Johnston that cut the Predators' lead to 3-2. However, penalties would prove costly as Forsberg netted his 22nd goal on the powerplay. Following a Stars goal from Matt Duchene, the Predators would score two empty-netters to win the game 6-3.
The Islanders did not fare well against the Predators in either matchup last season. The first game was at Bridgestone Arena on November 17, 2022, where the Predators jumped on Sorokin early with a 3-goal first period from Filip Forsberg, Colton Sissons, and former Islander Nino Niederreiter. The Predators kept up their dominant play into the second period when Juuso Parssinen scored to make the game 4-1. Without many shots on the net, Adam Pelech and Cal Clutterbuck collected their 2nd goals of the season to keep the team within reach 4-2. The third period featured three Islanders and four Predators penalties, which led to Palmieri and J.G. Pageau scoring to give the Islanders a chance. However, Parssinen would score following a Scott Mayfield tripping penalty to win 5-4.
The second matchup was on December 2nd at UBS Arena. The Islanders showed up to this rematch in a forceful manner, recording 49 shots on net. However, the penalties caught up to the team as they finished just 2-for-4 on the penalty kill, allowing Forsberg and Roman Josi to score in the first and second periods. Down 2-0 midway through the third period, Barzal would score on the powerplay from Brock Nelson. However, the Predators would put the game away with two empty-netters to win 4-1. Kevin Lankinen was outstanding, recording 48 saves on 49 attempts.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
With Cizikas sidelined, Pageau was the centerman Thursday night between Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. Barzal was the centerman between Palmieri and Simon Holmstrom, while Oliver Wahlstrom saw ice time on the Isles’ first line. Barzal is coming off one of his best performances, recording five shots and four assists. He is on pace for 67 points this season, which would exceed his career high. Pelech also seemed like his vintage self, quieting any whispers about his health with a 98 MPH slapshot in the first period.
For the Predators, Forsberg is having another great season, scoring 22 goals and 25 assists. Ryan O’Reilly has been strong in the faceoff circle, winning 416 of 802 contests. Josi is competing with Dobson for the James Norris Trophy with 35 points and 71 blocked shots. However, their goaltending has been a problem, with Juuse Saros having a .899 save percentage and Lankinen only starting nine games this season. Though the team started slowly, they are now 13-5-1 since December 3rd, placing them 4th in the Central Division.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat – Oliver Wahlstrom
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson – Hudson Fasching
Simon Holmstrom – Mathew Barzal – Kyle Palmieri
Matt Martin – J.G. Pageau - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech – Scott Mayfield
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho
Filip Forsberg – Ryan O’Reilly – Gustav Nyquist
Denis Gurianov – Colton Sissons – Juuso Parssinen
Cole Smith – Tommy Novak – Luke Evangelista
Philip Tomasino – Cody Glass – Michael McCarron
Roman Josi – Luke Schenn
Ryan McDonagh – Alexandre Carrie
Jeremy Lauzon – Dante Fabbro