The NY Islanders (19-14-10, 48 points) head north to Manitoba, Canada to take on the Central Division's first place Winnipeg Jets (28-10-4, 60 points) at Canadian Life Centre.
The Islanders traveled to St. Paul to take on the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The game started with a slashing penalty by Anders Lee after taking a shot up close to Marc-Andre Fleury. The Wild took advantage with a Mats Zuccarello goal 2:11 into the game. The Islanders struggled to find momentum taking 2 more penalties in the period by Noah Dobson and Kyle Palmieri. The mediocre play would continue into the second period with Connor Dewar scoring on a Sebastian Aho turnover in the offensive zone. Following a Bo Horvat delay of game penalty, Joel Erikkson Ek would score to make the game 3-0.
The third period started with Ken Appleby making his Islanders debut in the net. Ilya Sorokin was pulled presumably to save him for tonight’s game against the Jets. He left the game saving 29 out of 32 attempts. The Islanders almost found their footing after Kirill Kaprizov took a major penalty for high-sticking Alexander Romanov. However, Lee would take the Islanders’ 6th penalty of the night for hooking. This led to a shorthanded goal for Erikkson Ek to make the game 4-0. The last nail in the coffin came on a Marcus Foligno goal in the final minute that sealed the Isles’ fate 5-0.
The Jets’ last matchup came against the Philadelphia Flyers at Canadian Life Centre. Cam Atkinson would get the Flyers on the board with a goal 14:47 into the first period assisted by Joel Farabee. The second period opened with a Neal Pionk slashing penalty, which led to Atkinson’s 2nd goal of the game assisted by Morgan Frost. This game would come down to the wire as Travis Sanheim took a delay of game penalty with just 1:15 remaining in the third period. After pulling Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets could not take advantage of 6-on-4 action and would lose to the Flyers 2-0. Samuel Ersson earned the hard-fought shutout saving all 35 attempts, while Hellecuyck was 34 of 36.
The first matchup between the Islanders and Jets in 2022-23 came at UBS Arena on February 22nd. After going 0-for-2 on the powerplay to start the game, Aho found the back of the net in his return from injury on an assist from Brock Nelson. Following a tripping penalty on Casey Cizikas in the second period, Nikolaj Ehlers would score to tie the game 1-1. Per usual for the 2022-23 Islanders club, the team would enter the third period failing to score on 4 powerplay chances. However, Simon Holmstrom would play hero by scoring 9:57 into the frame on an assist from newly acquired Horvat to take the lead 2-1. After the Jets pulled Hellebuyck for an extra attacker, Dylan Demelo would take a slashing penalty that assured the Islanders a 2-1 victory.
The second matchup came just 4 days later at Canadian Life Centre in Winnipeg. Following an Aho hooking penalty 6:44 into the game, Horvat would find a turnover and score his first shorthanded goal as an Islander. The game would remain 1-0 into the second when Romanov scored his 2nd goal of the season on an assist from Cizikas. Following a fight between Scott Mayfield and now former Jet Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nelson would score on an odd-man rush assisted by Zach Parise. Neither team would gain momentum in the third period until the Jets pulled their David Rittich with 3 minutes remaining. Adam Pelech would take advantage with an empty-netter to seal an Islanders 4-0 victory. Semyon Varlamov saved all 23 attempts in this game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Islanders are coming off their most lackluster performance this season, aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-0 shutout loss at UBS Arena. Lane Lambert pivoted back to their traditional 4 lines in Minnesota aside from Hudson Fasching playing center between Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. Other than a quality wrist shot by Nelson in the second period, the offense failed to challenge Fleury only having 21 shots on goal. Butch Goring described the Isles’ effort last night in two key quotes: "They are not controlling the blue line enough; it causes Sorokin to have to do more. You have to play stronger in the neutral zone" and "The Islanders are just not skating well. They look unprepared to play this game". Suffice it to say, that every player should be on watch following this type of performance.
The Jets come into this game 1st in the Central Division with the best defense in all of hockey. The goaltending tandem of Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit has the best save percentage among all 32 teams with .924. Ehlers leads active Jets players with 15 goals this season, while Mark Scheifele leads the team with 41 points. Defenseman Josh Morrissey will be competitive for the James Norris Trophy with 32 points and 64 blocked shots. Former Islander Nino Niederreiter is having a great season with 12 goals and 12 assists. The one area the Jets have struggled is in the face-off circle, only winning 46% of contests.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat – Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom – J.G. Pageau – Julien Gauthier
Matt Martin – Hudson Fasching - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech – Scott Mayfield
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho
Kyle Connor – Adam Lowry – Gabriel Vilardi
Cole Perfetti – Vladislav Namestnikov – Nikolaj Ehlers
Nino Niederreiter – Dominic Toninato – Ma
Morgan Barron – Rasmus Kupari – Alex Iafallo
Josh Morrissey – Dylan Demelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Dylan Samberg – Nate Schmidt