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Game 3 Preview: Islanders-Panthers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS 

SERIES TIED: 1-1 

8 P.M., BARCLAYS CENTER. MSG+, NBCSN, WFAN 101.9 FM 660AM, BUY TICKETS

MORNING SKATE UPDATES:

FOUR THINGS

1. BACK TO BROOKLYN:


After earning a split in Sunrise, Fla. the Islanders and Panthers series shifts to Brooklyn for Games 3 and 4. The Islanders had to win at least one game in Sunrise to win the series and have taken home-ice advantage from the Panthers. If they protect home ice, they can win the series just by winning at Barclays Center, where they are 25-11-5 this season. 

“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish getting the split in Florida,” Matt Martin said. “Now we have to take care of business at home.” 

READ: ISLES COUNTING ON FANS FOR HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE

The Islanders are counting on their fans to be loud, rowdy and make Barclays Center a hostile place to play, much like they did last season in the postseason. 

“Both teams that I played [at the Coliseum] in the playoffs – Pittsburgh and Washington – said it was crazy and tough to play in,” Kyle Okposo said. “I hope we carry that into our first series at the Barclays Center.”

A pre-game fan fest outside Barclays Center will start at 5 p.m. featuring bands, Islanders legends and Sparky the Dragon. 

2. ANIMOSITY RISING:



As physical as Game 1 was, the bitterness and animosity between the teams appeared to escalate in Game 2, with a series of post-whistle scrums and a lengthy penalty list. There’s been plenty of facewashing and jabbing in the opening two games from players like Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic, but as is the case in playoff hockey, everyone seems to join in the extracurricular activity.  

“Any time there’s a scrum you have to help one another out, not let guys get teamed up on and try to get in there and stick together,” Martin said. “I feel like the scrums are going to pick up and the nastiness is going to continue to rise. We have to be there for one another.”

As for the physicality, the Islanders – who had two of the league’s top-four bodycheckers – have no problem engaging in a war of attrition.  

“It seems like every series we get into is a physical one,” Martin said. “We expected a physical series. We knew what we were getting into. I don’t think we’d want it any other way.” 

3. TAVARES STREAKING:


John Tavares has taken his game to another level over the past two weeks, riding a six-game goal-scoring streak. Tavares, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal in Game 2, has four points (2G, 2A) in two games this series and now has 15 points (7G, 8A) in 15 career playoff games. 

4. STOP REILLY SMITH:



While the Islanders have held Jaromir Jagr off the scoresheet for two straight games, containing Reilly Smith is now a top priority. Smith scored his third goal of the series on Friday and added an assist on Nick Bjugstad’s tally, giving the Panthers forward five points (3G, 2A) in two games. 

“We just have to be harder on them,” Martin said. “When we have a chance to hit them, hit them and be physical on them. Obviously we have to limit our turnovers and get pucks deep. They are a good line, they are effective, but we can do more to stop them forsure.”

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