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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 3:59 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Byslma ready for another noisy night at Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma hopes his players do a better job of handling the raucous atmosphere at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series than they did in Game 3.

The Coliseum, one of the NHL's smallest and oldest buildings, was roaring on Sunday when the New York Islanders played their first home game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six years. Bylsma, an assistant coach with the Islanders before joining the Penguins' organization, had warned his players that the atmosphere they'd see in Game 3 wouldn't be like anything they'd seen in their regular-season visits to Long Island.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:38 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Overtime is no longer 'Islander Time'

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- For the first two decades of their existence, the New York Islanders were the most successful overtime team in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Islanders won the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups on Bob Nystrom's OT goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. They eliminated the arch-rival New York Rangers in the fifth and deciding game of their first-round series when Ken Morrow scored in overtime. And they completed one of the biggest upsets in playoff history when David Volek's OT goal in Game 7 of the second round eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were going for their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

At that point in their history, the Islanders had played 36 overtime games in the playoffs and won 29 of them.

Twenty years later, they're still looking for win No. 30.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders' penalty-killers need to improve

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders were among the NHL's poorest teams at 5-on-5 for much of the regular season, and only their special teams kept them in the playoff race until a late-season improvement at even strength carried them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After a 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, the Islanders were excellent at full strength in Games 2 and 3 -- only to see their penalty-killers come up short.

Pittsburgh went 2-for-4 in the opener and 1-for-4 in the Islanders' 4-3 win in Game 2. New York jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in Game 3, but two power-play goals in a span of 19 seconds got the Penguins even. They added a third power-play goal on their fifth attempt of the day when Chris Kunitz scored in overtime to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 victory.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Capitals stick with winning lineup for Game 3

NEW YORK -- After eliminating the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the previous four seasons, the Washington Capitals now bring a two-game lea in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series to Madison Square Garden.

But there was no talk Monday of how a road win in Game 3 would give the Capitals a series stranglehold on a team that beat the Capitals in seven games in last year's conference semis.

"We're just thinking about tonight, we can't get too far ahead," Capitals coach Adam Oates said following Monday's morning skate. "The crowd will be crazy and you've got to enjoy that. As a player, you've got to want that feeling and be prepared for them to be excited about it. You've got to be in control and make good decisions with the puck."

If any NHL coach should be familiar with the MSG crowd during the playoffs, it's Oates. As an assistant with the New Jersey Devils last season, Oates went against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, which New Jersey won in six games. Prior to that series, Oates and the Devils coaching staff scouted New York's second-round series against - of all teams - the Washington Capitals. All those games and all that scouting has sharpened Oates' familiarity with his first-round opponent.

"I think it's very similar," Oates said of this year's Rangers squad compared to last year. "The type of style they play, it's hard hockey, so your team has to be ready for hard hockey. The first two games [in this series], the margin of error was really slim. Both teams played well, both goalies played well."

The Capitals will ice the same lineup for Game 3 in New York that won the previous two games in Washington. Forward Brooks Laich, who has been out of the lineup with a groin injury since April 4, did not participate in the team's practice and remains out, although he did work out on a stationary bike following the skate.

Here is the projected Washington Capitals lineup for Game 3 Monday night against the New York Rangers:

Marcus Johansson -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat -- Mike Ribeiro -- Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera -- Mathieu Perreault -- Eric Fehr

Matt Hendricks -- Jay Beagle -- Joel Ward

Karl Alzner -- Mike Green

John Erskine -- John Carlson

Jack Hillen -- Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Wojtek Wolski, Aaron Volpatti, Tom Poti

Injured: Brooks Laich (groin)

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:06 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders must find way to limit Crosby

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – For all of their hard work in Games 2 and 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders still couldn’t find a way to shut down Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh’s captain missed the series opener due to the broken jaw he suffered in a game against New York on March 30. But Crosby had two first-period goals in Game 2, just hours after being cleared to play, then set up three goals – including the overtime winner – in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 victory Sunday.

The Islanders know they can’t let Crosby continue to pile up points if they hope to win the series. But knowing that they need to shut him down and doing it are two different things.

“We have to be aware of him on the ice,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said after practice Monday. “He’s hurt us the past couple of games. We have to know where he is at all times and try to play him hard, try to finish our checks.

“We know that he’s going to create opportunities, he’s going to have chances. We have to accept that and make sure those second and third opportunities aren’t there. We’re going to try to take away some of his time and space.”

The Islanders aren’t having any more success against Crosby in the playoffs than they’ve had in the regular season. In 41 games against New York, he has 20 goals and 75 points.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 10:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Isles stick with Game 2 winning formula for Game 3

UNIONDALE, N.Y.New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano changed up his lines before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and saw his team rally to beat the Eastern Conference's regular-season champion.

With the series returning to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for an afternoon Game 3 on Sunday, Capuano said he's not going to change a thing.

"The way we handled our lineup all year was that the guys who played well deserved to play the following game," Capuano said, about two hours before the Islanders took the ice for their first playoff game at the Coliseum since 2007. "We're not going to change our mentality, as far as that goes."

That means Matt Moulson, the regular left wing on a line with John Tavares and Brad Boyes, will play with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo; John Bailey will switch onto Tavares' line. The move paid off in Game 2, with the Islanders rallying from a 3-1 deficit for a series-tying 4-3 victory. Moulson had a goal and assisted on Okposo's game-winner.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 7:02 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Change in lines changes outcome for Islanders

Matt Moulson and John Tavares have been joined at the hip since they came to the New York Islanders in 2009. It's been a combination that has benefitted both parties -- Tavares has emerged as one of the NHL's top young stars, and Moulson became a three-time 30-goal scorer as his wingman.

The two were apart once in the regular season -- Moulson missed an early April game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a case of the flu. That's why there were more than a few double takes when Islanders coach Jack Capuano changed his line combinations before Game 2 of New York's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With his team having scored twice in three games, and not at all in a 5-0 loss in Game 1, Capuano switched left wings on his first two lines, moving Josh Bailey onto a line with Tavares and Brad Boyes while putting Moulson with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.

The result: Moulson was the game's first star after scoring a goal and assisting on the game-winner in New York's 4-3 victory Friday night.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.09.2013 / 12:29 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Visnovsky back, game-time decision for Isles

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Washington Capitals make their only visit of the season to the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon as the New York Islanders wrap up a seven-game homestand. The Capitals are coming off a 7-1 win against Florida at home on Thursday, the same night the Islanders lost 2-1 in overtime to the New York Rangers.

Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed the Islanders' last two games for person reasons, is back and will be a game-time decision.

Washington will give rookie Philipp Grubauer his first NHL start in goal, with Braden Holtby likely to play against the Rangers on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here is the tentative lineup for the Islanders:

Matt MoulsonJohn TavaresBrad Boyes

Josh BaileyFrans NielsenKyle Okposo

Michael GrabnerMarty ReasonerDavid Ullstrom

Matt MartinCasey CizikasColin McDonald

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Mark Streit - Lubomir Visnovsky/Joe Finley

Thomas Hickey - Radek Martinek

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

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Posted On Saturday, 02.09.2013 / 6:14 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Visnovsky, Bailey to make season debuts for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Forward Josh Bailey and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky will make their 2012-13 debuts when the New York Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Bailey, the Islanders’ top pick (No. 9) in the 2008 NHL Draft, hasn’t played due to a knee injury sustained while playing in Germany during the work stoppage. The Islanders activated him Saturday and placed defenseman Matt Carkner on injured reserve.

Visnovsky, acquired by New York from Anaheim last summer for a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, did not report to the Islanders until this week. The native of Slovakia played with HC Slovan of the KHL during the work stoppage, and then stayed home for personal reasons until this week. He passed his physical on Thursday and had his first practice as an Islander on Friday.

The 36-year-old has 117 career goals and led all NHL defensemen with 68 points in 2011-12.

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Posted On Monday, 07.23.2012 / 2:40 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Versteeg agrees to four-year deal with Panthers

Kris Versteeg can finally look forward to spending some time in the same place.

The 26-year-old forward, who went from Chicago to Toronto to Philadelphia to Florida in the space of a year after winning the Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2010, agreed to a four-year deal worth $17.6 million with the Panthers.

"It's been a bit of a whirl for the last two years," he said Monday during a media conference call. "Security was the No. 1 thing for me, and playing in Florida was the No. 1 thing for me. It all came down to wanting to be in Florida -- I've loved my time here and I'm excited to get going again and try to win the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers."

The deal enabled the two sides to avoid an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday.

Kris Versteeg
Right Wing - FLA
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 54
SOG: 181 | +/-: 4
"Sometimes you have to keep negotiating right to the bitter end," general manager Dale Tallon said during a conference call when asked about the arbitration process. "It happens a lot -- you really don't want to go to arbitration, and we decided we didn’t want to. It made sense for both sides."

Said Versteeg: "I think we both got a fair deal and we're both excited about what the future of the franchise can be. I was confident we were going to get something done."

Versteeg, who was acquired by Florida from Philadelphia on July 1, 2011, is coming off the best season of his career, scoring 23 goals and adding 31 assists for 54 points in 71 games to help the Panthers win the first division title in franchise history. He had his first career hat trick in November and was part of Florida's top line along with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann.

"I loved playing with those guys," Versteeg said. "They made me a better player."

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Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic