The arms race in the Metropolitan Division ended at 3 p.m. Monday, but the battle for playoff seeding is just beginning.
The Islanders enter the day tied with the New York Rangers atop the Metro with the Pittsburgh Penguins lurking three points back. The Islanders visit the Dallas Stars tonight at 8:30 eastern time and if everything is bigger in Texas, then these two points are huge.
“A couple of weeks ago you could tell it was going to be a fight to the finish,” Travis Hamonic said. “Certainly there will be a lot of changes in the standings and we want to win as many games as we can and try to set ourselves up as best we can.”
It starts with scoring a win over the Stars, who are last in the Central Division – albeit with enough points (64) to be sixth in the Metro – and are without star forward Tyler Seguin. It’s far from a gimme, but the Islanders have won three straight against the Stars and are 4-1-1 in their last six trips to the Lone Star State.
“At this time of the year you want to get as many wins as you can and as many points as you can to keep pace with everyone else,” Hamonic said.
The Islanders made four deals on deadline day, but only two players – goaltender Michal Neuvirth and winger Tyler Kennedy – will join the Islanders in Dallas. Neuvirth was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for Chad Johnson and a 2016 third-round pick, while Kennedy was acquired from the San Jose Sharks for a conditional pick in 2015 or 2016. Kennedy is expected to make his Islanders debut tonight and will wear 26. Neuvirth is expected to back up Jaroslav Halak and will wear 30.
Islanders General Manager Garth Snow was unwilling to make major alterations to his roster Monday saying the team “deserved an opportunity to build off what they’ve started here in the first three quarters of the season.” That vote of confidence resonated with the players in the room.
“It just means that everybody behind us believes in us and I think everyone in this room has that same feeling,” Brock Nelson said. “We’re a good hockey team and we have to be a little better down the stretch here, but we believe we have a team that can win.”
The Stars currently sit 12th in the Western Conference standings, six points back of the Calgary Flames. General Manager Jim Nill was active around the trade deadline, sending Erik Cole to the Detroit Red Wings on March 1, while scooping up the Sabres other goalie, Jhonas Enroth on February 11.
Jamie Benn has 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) this season, recently overtaking the injured Tyler Seguin, who had 59 points in 55 games. Seguin and Benn are one of the most devastating duos in the NHL, but Benn is still a potent threat without his linemate with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last nine games.
“They are a high-scoring team,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They are going to throw everything at the net… They transition well and you have to be ready, they have a veteran group there and they work extremely hard.”
Puck drop is at 8:30 p.m. eastern time.
|New York Islanders |
41-21-2 (84 points – T-1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
|Dallas Stars |
27-26-10 (64 points - 7th in Central Division, 12th in Western Conference)
|8:30 p.m. |
American Airlines Arena
Television: MSG PLUS 2
Play-by-play: Jiggs McDonald; Color: Butch Goring
Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King; Color: Greg Picker
|Islanders News: |
- Snow Believes in Isles' Roster (Mar. 2)
- Islanders Acquire Neuvirth (Mar. 2)
- Islanders Acquire Kennedy (Mar. 2)
- Islanders Acquire Jeffrey, Louis (Mar. 2)
- Islanders Prospect Report (Mar. 2)
- Lee Named Rookie of the Month (Mar. 1)
|Islanders player to watch |
Tyler Kennedy - Forward
Tyler Kennedy is expected to make his Islanders debut tonight against the Stars. Kennedy was acquired from the San Jose Sharks, but made a name for himself with the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring a career high 45 points in 2010-11 and winning the Stanley Cup with the team in 2009. Kennedy has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 25 games this season.
|Stars player to watch |
Jamie Benn - Forward
Jamie Benn is the statistical and emotional leader of the Stars, leading the team with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) in addition to holding the captaincy. Benn is 11th in league scoring and hasn’t slowed without injured linemate Tyler Seguin, as he has 11 points (five goals, six assists) without Seguin. Benn had one assist against the Islanders in October.
|New York Islanders previous game lines |
27 Anders Lee – 91 John Tavares – 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner – 51 Frans Nielsen – 18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin – 29 Brock Nelson – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin – 48 Kael Mouillierat – 13 Colin McDonald
2 Nick Leddy – 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey – 3 Travis Hamonic
44 Calvin de Haan – 37 Brian Strait
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
|Dallas Stars previous game lines |
14 Jamie Benn - 90 Jason Spezza - 18 Patrick Eaves
21 Antoine Roussel - 20 Cody Eakin - 16 Ryan Garbutt
11 Curtis McKenzie - 38 Vernon Fiddler - 83 Ales Hemsky
22 Colton Sceviour - 10 Shawn Horcoff - 25 Brett Ritchie
33 Alex Goligoski - 3 John Klingberg
2 Jyrki Jokipakka - 6 Trevor Daley
24 Jordie Benn - 4 Jason Demers
32 Kari Lehtonen
1 Jhonas Enroth