Game Preview: NY Islanders vs. Anaheim Ducks

Can the Isles hold off a young, struggling Ducks squad and keep up their recent hot streak?
Bo Horvat's overtime heroics gave the Islanders an important second point Monday night against Toronto.
Bo Horvat's overtime heroics gave the Islanders an important second point Monday night against Toronto. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Tonight at UBS Arena, the NY Islanders (13-7-7) host the Anaheim Ducks (10-17-0), who, after a compelling start to the season, have fallen back to Earth amidst some injuries to star players like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. Meanwhile, the Islanders, who have struggled all season late in games and have squandered a fair amount of points so far in the standings, still find themselves currently riding an 8-1-2 hot streak, muting calls for change that had previously been mounting. Of course, firing Lane Lambert or even Lou Lamoriello- or even engaging in a roster reset- will not occur if the team continues playing the way they have played lately.

LAST GAME

The Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime on Monday night. With all his "great individual success" in his career, former Isles captain John Tavares had a goal and an assist. The assist, which tied the game with 6.4 seconds left, was Tavares's 1000th career point. It was fitting that while the Leafs were celebrating that personal milestone, the Isles would walk away with the second point when Bo Horvat scored off a pass from Mathew Barzal 46 seconds into overtime to give the Islanders the win.

Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri both had a goal and an assist in the win, and Noah Dobson continued his stellar play with three assists. Dobson now has five goals and 22 assists for 27 points in 27 games this season and became the fastest Islanders defenseman to 20 assists since Vladimir Malakhov in 1993-1994.

While the vibes are always deservedly good after a win, this was another game in which the Islanders held a 3-1 lead, only to find themselves in overtime later in the evening. This has been an issue all season, and the Isles have to figure this out at some point, or it will become a fatal issue for the team.

HISTORICAL MATCHUP

The Islanders are 21-16-4-1 all-time against the Ducks, including wins in the last four matchups between the teams. The Islanders beat the Ducks twice last season, including a 6-3 win on March 15, 2023 in Anaheim and a 7-1 victory on October 15, 2022, at UBS Arena.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

NYI: Noah Dobson. Dobson has had a Norris Trophy-caliber season, although with Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes vying for the prize as well, perhaps a nifty third-place finish and Norris nomination could be in sight for Dobson. Regardless, his play- both offensively and defensively- has been stellar. Offensively, Dobson is averaging a point per game more than a quarter of the way through the season, with 27 points in 27 games. Furthermore, on defense, Dobson's decision-making has been much quicker and better than it was in previous seasons, which makes sense considering young defensemen often take time adjusting to the NHL. It appears Dobson's development is done, and the Isles are left with one of the best young defensemen in the world.

Noah Dobson
Could Noah Dobson contend for the Norris Trophy this season for the Islanders? / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

ANA: Leo Carlsson (if he plays). Carlsson, the second-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, has been even better than expected. When the Ducks selected Carlsson over University of MIchigan center Adam Fantilli, there was a good amount of shock in the hockey world. But the Ducks were sure they had the more complete player and confidently selected Carlsson. Even the Ducks cannot have expected such immediate rewards from Carlsson, who has eight goals and 13 points in his first 19 NHL games, including becoming the 19th player in NHL history to score a hat trick before his 19th birthday. However, the Ducks have placed Carlsson on a load management plan for at least the first half of this season, so Carlsson has not played in every game. On the days he does not play, he engages in an intense off-ice workout and then watches and studies the game from the press box. This new-age approach to developing a top prospect could be a template for other young stars, so this is something for hockey fans everywhere to watch with interest.

Should Carlsson not be in the lineup, keep an eye on Frank Vatrano, the veteran winger who is currently leading the Ducks in goals (14) and points (23). Former Islander Ryan Strome is also making his return to Long Island, with 17 points in 26 games for the Ducks this season.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

NYI

Anders Lee- Bo Horvat- Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom- JG Pageau- Julien Gauthier
Hudson Fasching- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck

Alexander Romanov- Noah Dobson
Samuel Bolduc- Robert Bortuzzo
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho/Grant Hutton

Semyon Varlamov
Ilya Sorokin

ANA

Alex Killorn- Leo Carlsson- Troy Terry
Frank Vatrano- Ryan Strome- Brett Leason
Max Jones- Adam Henrique- Jakob Silfverberg
Ross Johnston- Sam Carrick- Brock McGinn

Cam Fowler- Jackson LaCombe
Pavel Mintyukov- Ilya Lyubushkin
Urho Vaakanainen- Radko Gudas

John Gibson
Lukas Dostal

Line projections courtesy of Daily Faceoff.