Bo Horvat makes his long-awaited return to Vancouver as the NY Islanders take on his former club, the Vancouver Canucks. This will also be the second time former Islander Anthony Beauvillier faces off against best friend Mat Barzal. The Islanders are desperate for a win after losing five straight games and are hoping to stay out of the box and keep their legs under them, as they've faltered during third periods. This game may be make or break for head coach Lane Lambert in the eyes of fans, many of whom have been calling for his replacement since the loss to the Washington Capitals last week. Whether in the lineup or behind the bench, this team needs change to spark the offensive talent it has been struggling to show the last five games. Fans are demanding a response from this team, and the only one good enough seems to be winning. Everyone, from fans to players, is frustrated. This was supposed to be a new team, yet this is one of the worst starts to an Islanders' season in recent years, and fans are rightfully upset. The Isles need a win tonight to get back on their fans' good side and stay alive in a strong metropolitan division.
The Canucks are 11-3-1 on the season and have won the last three matchups against the Islanders. This matchup will be a tough battle for the Islanders, who need to focus on skating for 60 minutes and finding their identity again.
The Islanders fell 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers to kick off their western Canada road trip on Monday night. Once again, the Islanders were evenly matched with the Oilers until the third period collapse, as a few bad penalties let the Oilers run away with the momentum and the win. Despite taking the lead 40 seconds into the game thanks to a Mat Barzal slapshot, a game-tying goal by Leon Draisaitl and two Oilers power play goals had the Islanders playing catchup during the last 20 minutes. Ilya Sorokin continued to struggle in net as the team lost their fifth-consecutive game, allowing three goals on 31 shots faced.
The Canucks have never been a relevant matchup for the Islanders, just another non-conference team they face twice a year. However, these games became personal after trading fan favorite and 1/2 of best bromance nominee Beauvillier for Horvat. Horvat didn't leave Canada on the best foot with team management or with fans. Many were upset over his praise of Long Island shortly after he departed from the west and his criticism of the Canucks management. Horvat is looking to get even with his old club after a loss to the Canucks in his first game against them back in February. The Canucks beat the Islanders 6-5, and both Horvat and Beauvillier were able to score against their old teams. Elias Pettersson scored twice in the third period to bring the Canucks ahead of the Islanders in what was otherwise a relatively evenly matched game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Very few Islanders deserve to be praised for their play during this five-game stint, but I guess it's easy to stand out for playing okay when everyone around you is less than. Barzal has looked solid through his last three games, scoring once against the Oilers and garnering an assist against Boston last week. He has four points (2G, 2A) in his last five games. Horvat has two assists in his last two games despite being a -1 in both.
Thatcher Demko has been outstanding in net for the Canucks this season, with 1.96 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. He has been a brick wall behind an already incredibly talented defense led by captain Quinn Hughes, making scoring against this team that much more difficult. Hughes is already setting himself up for a Norris Trophy nomination despite it being so early in the season. Hughes has seven points in his last five games (1G, 6A) and hopes to continue this point streak tonight. He has a +18 on the season and has already had 23 points in 15 games.
Mat Barzal- Bo Horvat- Simon Holmstrom
Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Plamieri
Andders Lee- JG Pageau- Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech- Noah Dobson
Alexander Romanov- Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho- Scott Mayfield
Anddrei Kuzmenko- Elias Pettersson- Ilya Mikheyev
Phillip Di Giusseppe- JT Miller- Brock Boeser
Dakota Joshua- Pius Suter- Connor Garland
Anthony Beuvillier- Teddy Blueger- Sam Lafferty
Quinn Hughes- Phillip Hronek
Ian Cole- Noah Juulsen
Akito Hirose- Mark Friedman