The New York Islanders used their Western road trip in November as a springboard to an 11-3-0 month and are hoping to recapture that momentum this week, when they face off against Western foes in their next three contests.
First up, the Islanders take on the Minnesota Wild at 8 p.m. (eastern time), before heading to St. Louis on Thursday and hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
“It’s a tough little stretch here,” Matt Martin said. “We’re playing Minnesota, St. Louis and Chicago, who are some of the better teams in the West and in the league. After losing [to St. Louis] at home in a game that we shouldn’t have lost, we want to respond here in Minnesota, get on the right track and carry that momentum forward.”
The Islanders out-hit the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes en route to three wins against the West in early November, but were unable to answer a late Blues push in a 6-4 loss this past Saturday.
“We just have to get back to playing our game,” Kyle Okposo said. “It’s a little different playing Western Conference teams, a different style of play, but we’re built for that. We have to try to use our assets to our advantage.”
The Islanders were dealt an extra blow in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Blues, as Casey Cizikas left the contest in the third period after a collision with Vladimir Tarasenko. Cizikas had points in six of his last 10 games (three goals, four assists) with a plus-six rating.
Head Coach Jack Capuano said Cizikas was day-to-day, but won’t suit up against the Wild. Ryan Strome practiced in Cizikas’ spot Monday, but Capuano hasn’t revealed his lines.
The Islanders did get some positive news out of Monday’s practice, as both Josh Bailey and Lubomir Visnovsky participated in full-contact drills.
“There’s a good chance they could both play,” Capuano said.
The Wild enter the game on the heels of a 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The Wild scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 3-0 deficit, but couldn’t hold off the Ducks in the third period. Still, the Wild boast an 8-3-1 home record.
Zach Parise leads the Wild with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games. All-star defenseman Ryan Suter missed two straight games with the mumps, but practiced with the Wild on Monday and Head Coach Mike Yeo said he expects Suter, who logs a league-high 29:19 TOI per game, to play.
“It’s hard to really quantify what he means to our team,” Yeo said. “There are so many parts of the game. You’re talking about half the game first of all, you’re talking every key situation against every key player.”
The Wild are 77-43-16 when both Parise and Suter are in the lineup.
Tonight’s game also marks the first time the Islanders face off against Thomas Vanek. Vanek scored 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 47 games for the Islanders last season before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the trade deadline.
The Islanders won their last two trips to Minnesota, including a 5-4 come from behind victory on Dec. 29, 2013.
The Islanders will look to recapture that magic when the puck drops tonight at 8 p.m. eastern time.
|New York Islanders |
19-8-0 (38 points – T-1st in Metropolitan Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
|Minnesota Wild |
14-10-1 (29 points - 5th in Central Division, 10th in Western Conference)
|8:00 p.m. |
Xcel Energy Center
Saint Paul, MN
Play-by-play: Howie Rose; Color: Butch Goring
Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King; Color: Greg Picker
|Islanders News: |
- Islanders Prospect Report (Dec. 8)
- Bobby Nystrom Honored at Coliseum (Dec. 7)
- Blues 6, Islanders 4 (Dec. 6)
|Islanders player to watch |
Griffin Reinhart - Defenseman
Griffin Reinhart only has five career NHL games on his resume, but is being given one big opportunity since being recalled on Dec. 3. At 6’4, 217 lbs., Reinhart brings some much-needed size to the wounded defensive corps. Reinhart had four hits in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues. The 2012 fourth-overall pick plays a defensive game and is currently paired with Calvin de Haan. “He’s a big stay-at-home guy… we need his reach and we need his size,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said.
|Wild player to watch |
Thomas Vanek - Forward
Thomas Vanek faces off against the Islanders for the first time since being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens at the trade deadline last season. Vanek hasn’t found his groove yet in Minnesota with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 25 games, but the Islanders know first-hand that Vanek has game-breaking skill, with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 47 games on Long Island last season. Vanek will play on the Wild’s top line with Zach Parise tonight against the Islanders.
|New York Islanders previous game lines |
86 Nikolay Kulemin – 91 John Tavares – 21 Kyle Okposo
40 Michael Grabner – 51 Frans Nielsen – 84 Mikhail Grabovski
27 Anders Lee – 29 Brock Nelson – 18 Ryan Strome
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
2 Nick Leddy – 46 Matt Donovan
44 Calvin de Haan – 8 Griffin Reinhart
14 Thomas Hickey – 37 Brian Strait
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
|Minnesota Wild previous game lines |
11 Zach Parise - 64 Mikael Granlund - 26 Thomas Vanek
16 Jason Zucker - 9 Mikko Koivu - 29 Jason Pominville
22 Nino Niederreiter - 56 Erik Haula - 3 Charlie Coyle
18 Ryan Carter - 21 Kyle Brodziak - 14 Justin Fontaine
20 Ryan Suter - 25 Jonas Brodin
6 Marco Scandella - 46 Jared Spurgeon
39 Nate Prosser - 2 Keith Ballard
35 Darcy Kuemper
32 Niklas Backstrom