Isles, Leafs begin home-and-home series
Sunday, 01.22.2012 / 5:17 PM
Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing EditorISLANDERS (19-21-6) at MAPLE LEAFS (23-19-5)
: RIS (HD), MSG PLUS, LEAFS TV
: New York 6-4-0; Toronto 5-5-0.
: This is the second of four meetings between the teams. Toronto took the first matchup, a 5-3 decision at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 23. The clubs will meet again Tuesday night in New York.
: Some might think the Islanders are no longer in the playoff race. But this club enters Monday's action winners of three straight and just nine points behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference. The Isles are just two points off the pace they were on at this stage in 2007 -- the last time they qualified for the postseason.
"Every game we play now is absolutely huge for us, especially against these teams," said Isles center John Tavares
, who has a League-best 12-game point streak. "[These are] conference teams that we are battling in position with. We are still fighting hard and we still believe in here. We are really coming together."
New York made it three in a row when Tavares scored his second goal of the night at 3:58 of overtime to lift the Isles to a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Coliseum. Tavares -- who had already extended his point streak when he scored midway through the second period -- is now just 10 points behind Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring lead.
"The way he's skating, protecting the puck, his vision and his creativity -- it's the best I've seen from him so far," Isles coach Jack Capuano said of his All-Star center, who now has 19 goals and 29 assists.
: Toronto has been hindered by a lack of offense as of late. The Leafs have lost four of their last five games and have scored only 9 goals along the way. Four of those tallies came in one game -- a 4-1 victory against Minnesota last Thursday.
But the Leafs followed up that victory with a 3-1 loss on home ice to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Toronto could have moved into playoff position with a victory, but instead enters Monday's game two points behind Washington for the No. 8 seed.
"We know it's a big one," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf
said after the loss. "We talked a lot about how big this game was. We're definitely disappointed with the outcome."
: Tavares has 8 goals and 13 assists during his 12-game run, while PA Parenteau
has 2 goals and 5 assists over his last five contests. Kyle Okposo
has flourished on the top line alongside Tavares and has 11 points in his last 12. Meanwhile, goalie Evgeni Nabokov
is 5-1-0 with a 1.32 goals-against average in his last six starts. … Joffrey Lupul
has a goal and 3 assists in his last three games for Toronto.
: New York will be without Rick DiPietro
(sports hernia, knee swelling), Mike Mottau
(concussion) and Marty Reasoner
(hand). … Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles
and winger Colby Armstrong
, who are both suffering from concussions, hopes to return during this home-and-home series. Darryl Boyce
is day-to-day with a back injury.
: The Islanders are 12-for-12 on the penalty kill over their last five games. … This is the first home-and-home series between these teams since Feb. 28-March 2, 1974, when Toronto swept the Islanders and outscored them 11-6.
: "I think we are finding some consistency in our game. We are getting some excellent goaltending with Nabby and obviously John and his line are certainly doing their part." -- Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald