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Game Preview: Islanders at Blackhawks

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
When the New York Islanders lost three straight in early December, the Chicago Blackhawks looked like a tough draw.


Instead, the Islanders rose to the challenge and beat the Blackhawks 3-2, rallying from a pair of one-goal deficits.

Three months later, the Islanders look to channel that spirit and end their current three-game slide in the Windy City at 8:30 p.m. eastern time.

“We’re resilient,” Calvin de Haan said. “We’ve taken stretches where we haven’t played a full 60, but we’ve had our opportunities. No one wants to be in a slump like this and it aggravates some of the guys, but we need to play our game and desperate hockey.”

Head Coach Jack Capuano said his team was “snakebitten” after Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. The Islanders have scored three goals total in their past three games, but the coach puts it down to puck luck and the ebbs and flows of an 82-game season. He wants his team to stay the course.

“I really like way we played against Montreal,” Capuano said. “We hold a team to under 10 chances in a game, that’s pretty good for our hockey club.  We need to concentrate on details and habits.”

One positive to take away from the past three games is the strong play of the Islanders penalty kill. The shorthanded unit hasn’t allowed a goal in seven straight games, killing off 23 straight penalties.

“It’s huge,” Anders Lee said. “They’ve been so good for us lately that if we get a penalty, we’re not worried about it. If they can continue to do that, we’ll be fine and when the power play starts clicking we’ll start getting on a role here.”

Ryan Strome will be back in the lineup after sitting one game as a healthy scratch. Capuano said he plans on giving out strategic rest days as the season winds down, a chance for players to heal up. Frans Nielsen was scratched for the Islanders Friday night before returning Saturday. Strome practiced with Lee, Brock Nelson and Michael Grabner during Monday’s practice.

The Blackhawks are one of the top teams in the NHL, currently sitting third in the Central Division, but have enough games in hand to overtake second place Nashville. Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2013 – their second in four years – and played to game seven of the Western finals last season, yet the Islanders own an 8-2-2 record in their last 12 matchups against the Blackhawks.

“Our speed and the way we grind them down in their end might frustrate them a bit and it’s hard for their offensive stars,” de Haan said. “It’s frustrating for those guys to be in their end all game. We just have to continue to play like that.”

The Blackhawks are without Patrick Kane, who injured his left clavicle on Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers. Kane was tied for the NHL scoring lead at the time of his injury (64 points) and is still the Blackhawks leading scorer. Chicago hasn’t slowed down though without Kane, as the Blackhawks are 5-1-1 in their last seven games.

“They are going on all cylinders right now,” Capuano said. “Guys have picked it up since Kane is out and obviously on the backend they have some guys that transition real well. This is a good test.”

Jonathan Toews leads all active Blackhawks with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists), while goaltender Corey Crawford is 28-14-5 this season.

Puck drop is at 8:30 p.m. eastern time.

New York Islanders
43-24-4 (90 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
20-12-4 road
Chicago Blackhawks
41-21-6 (41 points - 3rd in Central Division, 4th in Western Conference)
21-9-5 home
8:30 p.m.
United Center

Chicago, IL

Television:
MSG+2
Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders Prospect Report (Mar. 16)
- Canadiens 3, Islanders 1 (Mar. 14)
Islanders player to watch
Anders Lee - Forward

Anders Lee is having a tremendous rookie season for the Islanders with 23 goals and 15 assists in 65 games. Lee’s 23 goals are second on the Islanders and second among all NHL rookies, trailing Mike Hoffman by one goal for the overall lead. Lee’s 38 points rank fifth amongst first-year players. Lee had a six-game point streak (three goals, three assists) snapped Friday against the Ottawa Senators.
Blackhawks player to watch
Jonathan Toews - Forward

Jonathan Toews is the active points leader for the Chicago Blackhawks, with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games this season. Toews has 21 goals this season, surpassing the 20-goal plateau for the eighth straight year. He has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five games, helping shoulder the load in leading scorer Patrick Kane’s absence. “Captain Serious” is five points shy of 500 for his career.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
27 Anders Lee
- 91 John Tavares - 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner - 51 Frans Nielsen - 21 Kyle Okposo
86 Nikolay Kulemin - 29 Brock Nelson - 26 Tyler Kennedy
17 Matt Martin
-
53 Casey Cizikas - 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

44 Calvin de Haan - 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey - 55 Johnny Boychuk
37 Brian Strait
-
46 Matt Donovan

Goaltenders
30 Michal Neuvirth
41 Jaroslav Halak
Chicago Blackhawks previous game lines
Forwards
23 Kris Versteeg - 19 Jonathan Toews - 81 Marian Hossa
20 Brandon Saad - 80 Antoine Vermette - 86 Teuvo Teravainen
29 Bryan Bickell - 91 Brad Richards - 10 Patrick Sharp
11 Andrew Desjardins - 16 Marcus Kruger - 65 Andrew Shaw

Defensemen
44 Kimmo Timonen - 7 Brent Seabrook
2 Duncan Keith - 32 Michal Rozsival
27 Johnny Oduya - 4 Niklas Hjalmarsson

Goaltenders
50 Corey Crawford
31 Antti Raanta



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