The New York Islanders have been a little depleted leading up to their game against the Nashville Predators tonight at 8 p.m. eastern time, but help may be on the way.
Head Coach Jack Capuano said there was a “good chance” Casey Cizikas would join the team in Nashville. Cizikas has missed eight games with a lower-body injury and Capuano said he’ll see limited minutes should he draw into the lineup.
“He’s been skating and doing well,” Capuano said of Cizikas. “Right now as long as he’s safe to play – which I believe he is – he’s had three or four days of conditioning. It’s never going to be the same when you get back in. We’ll give him some short minutes if he’s ready to go and we’ll ease him back in.”
The Islanders were left shorthanded after Tuesday’s game in Dallas. Tyler Kennedy – the Islanders acquisition at Monday’s trade deadline – flew back to Long Island Wednesday after revealing he had an upper-body injury. Matt Martin was issued a one-game suspension after a knee-on-knee collision with Dallas’ Trevor Daley Tuesday night.
“He’s not that type of player, he’s got 1600 hits in this league and he plays the right way. It’s unfortunate. He was planted and it was a knee-on-knee thing. I know Matt doesn’t feel good about it, but it wasn’t an intent to injure.
Capuano leaned on Michael Grabner and Nikolay Kulemin Tuesday, as the two each logged over 17 minutes of ice time, covering for Martin.
The Predators enter the game with a four-game losing streak, their longest streak of the season. Previously, the Predators longest skid was two games. The turning point came on Feb. 19, when the Islanders snapped Nashville’s six game winning streak. Since leaving Long Island, the Predators are 2-4-1.
Despite their recent struggles, the Predators are not to be taken lightly. They are still atop the league standings/a top-three team in the NHL with 89 points and have the NHL’s best home record at 26-5-1. Bridgestone Arena – or “Smashville” – is not an easy place to play, as the Islanders have lost six straight.
The Predators score by committee, as six players have at least 15 goals, while another two have at least 10. Mike Ribeiro and rookie Filip Forsberg lead the team with 52 points each, while Forsberg and Neal have a team-high 21 goals.
Defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi give the Predators two offensive weapons from the blue line. Josi (46 points) and Weber (43 points) are both top-10 in NHL scoring among defensemen and Weber’s legendary 108.5 mph slap shot makes opponents think twice about getting into shooting lanes.
With all due respect to Weber, Forsberg and Ribeiro, the Predators MVP is in goal. Pekka Rinne is second in the NHL in wins (35), goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (.928). He’ll be looking to bounce back after allowing five goals to Islanders two weeks ago.