Monday night's match-up against Toronto marks the Islanders’ fourth game in a stretch that will see them play a staggering twelve-of-fifteen on the road. With a 4-0-0 record this season, the Maple Leafs are one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the NHL, but Islanders head coach Scott Gordon doesn’t see the club as being any different than the other top-tier teams that the Islanders have faced early this year.
“I don’t think we’ve had an easy match-up this season when you look at all of the teams that we’ve played,” said Gordon on Sunday afternoon. “When you’re playing Pittsburgh and Washington on the road, you don't have to look any further to find two of the top teams in the league. Then you throw in Dallas, who also hasn’t lost yet.”
The Islanders are coming off of a key home victory against Colorado on Saturday night, which featured the return of John Tavares
and James Wisniewski to their lineup. Wisniewski immediately reclaimed his top-pair status by logging a team-leading 23:12 of ice time, including an Islanders-high 7:49 on the power play.
“The best thing about Wiz is that he’s so good at playing his opportunities to shoot the puck,” said Gordon. “He’s very deceptive on the breakout and he makes our power play tougher to defend.”
Wisniewski’s spot atop the Islanders power play umbrella has helped the team to an NHL second-best six power play goals. The unit faces a tough match-up in Toronto, as they have killed all but one of their penalties this season.
Tavares also saw a lot of action in his return to the lineup, ranking fourth among Islanders forwards with 18:48 of icetime. The centerman also scored his first point of the season, capping the Isles victory with an empty net goal.
Gordon rolled out a number of unique line combinations throughout the game on Saturday to find the right fit for his new crop of forwards and he may continue to do so Monday night. The head coach showed that he has no qualms about moving around his top scorer, Josh Bailey
, who was slotted between wingers Blake Comeau and PA Parenteau
while Tavares was out. Tavares took a lot of shifts with winger Matt Moulson
on Saturday, so look for Gordon to continue to try and ignite last year’s top goal scorer.
The Islanders moved their flight to an earlier departure on Sunday in order to accommodate players who were spending time with their families in Toronto, so expect an extra spark from local boys Bailey and Tavares, among others, who enjoyed home cooking last night.