The NY Islanders' will make their return home tonight after a three-game Western Conference road trip, which ended with a 5-2 loss to the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. Nicolas Roy and Jack Eichel both scored twice for Vegas in the win while playing strong defensively throughout the game. Logan Thompson made 28 saves on 30 shots, only allowing goals from Mat Barzal and Matt Martin. This is coming after a dominant 5-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes and a 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, so the loss against the Golden Knights does not hurt as bad, but they need to come away with points on Long Island tonight.
The Vancouver Canucks, who currently sit as the second-best team points-wise after laying down the hammer on the New York Rangers last night by a score of 6-3. Vancouver got off to a hot start, scoring three goals in the first period including Brock Boeser netting one with 16 seconds left in the frame. Elias Pettersson and Nils Hoglander scored 46 seconds apart in the second period, leading the way to a strong third-period finish. Hoglander and Pettersson both scored twice in the win, with Pettersson notching four points. The Isles will likely see Casey DeSmith in goal for the Canucks after Thatcher Demko made 39 saves on 42 shots against the high-scoring Rangers to give Vancouver a four-point lead ahead of Vegas in their division.
The recent history between these organizations is quite interesting, as every game has had some known (or unknown at the time) meaning to it containing players that were swapped between sides. Bo Horvat has scored in both games as a member of the Islanders while playing against the team that traded him, scoring a go-ahead goal in a game that eventually saw the Isles lose 4-3 in overtime in Western Canada due to a Quinn Hughes breakaway goal. Horvat also scored in their latter matchup in 2022-23, but the Canucks got the last laugh as Anthony Beauvillier scored the game-winning goal in a 6-5 win in his return to New York. In their only other meeting in 2022-23 which came before the teams made the trade at the All-Star break, Horvat scored the only two goals for Vancouver in a 6-2 Islanders win that saw Aatu Raty score his second and final goal as a member of the Isles before being shipped off to the Canucks. Barzal, a British Columbia native, scored in both games last season against the team his family grew up cheering on. Some crazy coincidences when these clubs battle to say the least.
Players to Watch
Horvat must be the player to watch for the blue and orange, as the Canucks likely would rather anyone but him to score after his previous performances against them. The former 9th overall pick in 2013 is second on the team in scoring behind Barzal with 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points this season, and has truly become everything that the Isles could have asked for when inking his 8-year, $68 million contract upon acquiring him. He does just about everything for the Isles, but has been instrumental in the power plays surprising success this season, in which Vancouver knows those strengths very well.
There are so many dangerous players on the Canucks this season offensively, but a player that is excellent on both ends of the rink is Hughes. Early on in the campaign, Hughes may have been the favorite for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the league's MVP, let alone the Norris Trophy that only recognizes defensemen. The 2018 7th overall pick leads the NHL in points by a defenseman with 49 points and has 10 goals, one of which being an OT winner against the Isles. Hughes can beat you with his smarts, skill, speed, and amazing skating abilities, and the Islanders' porous penalty kill may have trouble against one of the league's best power-play quarterbacks.