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Game Preview: Islanders at Avalanche

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are taking their high-flying offense to high altitude tonight, when they take on the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center at 9 p.m.


The Islanders enter the Mile High City, with 35 goals, tied for the league lead with the San Jose Sharks. The Islanders have scored at least three goals in every game except one this season and are the top team in the Metropolitan Division with 12 points.

Their 6-3-0 record will be put to the test on a five-game Western road trip that begins tonight in Denver.

John Tavares (4G, 8A) and Brock Nelson (6G, 6A) are tied for the team lead with 12 points apiece and are three off the pace around the league. Kyle Okposo is third on the team with 11 points and Mikhail Grabovski has three points in two games since returning from a concussion. 

The Islanders power play has also found its groove again, scoring twice in Tuesday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The power play is currently fourth in the NHL with a 25.7% conversion rate.

On the other side of the ice, the Avalanche are picking up momentum after hitting a few moguls to start the season, having recorded points in four straight. 

Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon headline Colorado’s speedy young talent. Duchene (3G, 4A) is the part of a three-way tie for the Avs scoring lead and won Olympic gold with Tavares in Sochi. Landeskog (4G) is an extremely mature leader, given the captaincy at 19-years-old and MacKinnon is the reigning rookie of the year.

“Duchene has obviously proven to be one of the elite players in the game,” Tavares said. “It’s no secret they’ve had some great draft picks over the past few years and they have some extremely talented players.”

“They are extremely skilled, very high paced and a quick team, kind of the same way we play an up-tempo game,” Tavares added.

The Avalanche have a bevy of young stars in their arsenal, but the kids are being helped along by two wily vets. Jarome Iginla (2G, 5A) is tied for the team scoring lead while Alex Tanguay is tied with Landeskog for the goal scoring lead.

Playing at 5,280 feet presents another challenge for the visiting Islanders, who play their games roughly at sea level. The air is thinner in Denver, which seemingly gives the Avalanche home-ice advantage.

“Certainly when you’re not used to it you can feel it,” Tavares said of playing at the higher altitude. “Especially in the first period, it’s the big hump to get over, as the game goes on you feel better. We need to have short, hard shifts.”

The Islanders overcame the unique obstacle and took the lone contest at Pepsi Center 2-1 in overtime last season.

New York Islanders
6-3-0 (12 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-3rd in Eastern Conference)
3-1-0 road
Colorado Avalanche
2-4-4 (8 points - 7th in Central Division, 13th in Western Conference)
1-1-2 home
9:00  p.m.
Pepsi Center
Denver, CO

Television:
MSG PLUS
Play-by-play: Howie
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King; Color: Greg Picker
Islanders News:
- Islanders Road Trip: Day One (Oct. 29)
- Isles TV: Islanders Hit the Road (Oct. 29)
Islanders player to watch
Mikhail Grabovski - Forward

With six points (3G, 3A) in six games, Mikhail Grabovski has provided the Islanders with secondary scoring early in his first season with the team. A natural center, Grabovski has adapted to life on the wing, finding success with two different centers, Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen. Grabovski has three points (1G, 2A) in two games since returning from a concussion that sidelined him for three straight games.
Avalanche player to watch
Matt Duchene - Forward

 Matt Duchene continued his ascent to being one of the NHL’s top players last season, posting career highs in goals (23), assists (47) and points (70). Duchene is currently tied for the Avs scoring lead with seven points (3G, 4A) and has led/co-led the team in each of the past two seasons. It’s hard to believe the 23-year-old is already in his sixth season after being selected two spots behind John Tavares in the 2009 NHL Draft.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
89 Cory Conacher 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee 
29 Brock Nelson18 Ryan Strome
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
11 Lubomir Visnovsky
44 Calvin de Haan 37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Colorado Avalanche previous game lines
Forwards
92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - 90 Ryan O'Reilly
40 Alex Tanguay - 9 Matt Duchene - 12 Jarome Iginla
11 Jamie McGinn - John Mitchell - 25 Max Talbot
55 Cody McLeod - 24 Marc-Andre Cliche - 48 Danny Briere

Defensemen
8 Jan Hejda - 6 Erik Johnson
17 Brad Stuart - 4 Tyson Barrie
2 Nick Holden - 22 Zach Redmond

Goaltenders
1 Semyon Varlamov
20 Reto Berra


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