NEW YORK ISLANDERS (40-22-7) VS MONTREAL CANADIENS (37-26-7)
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MORNING SKATE UPDATES | GAME NOTES
SEASON SERIES: NYI TRAILS 0-0-1
The Canadiens lead the season series with the Isles after scraping out a 4-3 shootout victory on Nov. 5 at Barclays Center. Casey Cizikas (2G) and Valtteri Filppula had the Isles 3-1 after 20 minutes, but the Canadiens rallied with second and third period goals to send the game into overtime. Canadiens forward Joel Armia scored the eventual game-decider in the shootout.
The Islanders are 4-11-2 in their last 17 games against the Canadiens. The Isles and Habs will conclude their season series on Mar. 21 in Montreal.
As the playoff race heats up, the stakes continue to rise. For the Islanders (87 points), a win Thursday, coupled with a Washington Capitals (89 points) loss, would put the Isles in a first-place tie for the Metro Division. The Islanders are also trying to stay ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins (85 points), who lurk two points back.
While the Isles are looking for a better seed, Montreal continues to vie just for a playoff bid. The Canadiens (81 points) are with tied Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets (38 ROW) hold the tiebreaker over the Canadiens' (35 ROW).
Video: Robin Lehner returns to practice
- Robin Lehner practiced with the team on Wednesday for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Mar. 5 where the Swedish goalie collided with Ottawa forward Brady Tkachuk.
Lehner was relieved to pass protocols and rejoin his team after missing three games and noted that after participating with full contact he feels, "100-percent."
"It's nice to be back," Lehner said. "It just sucks to be away from the guys especially this time of year. Being around the guys and being around the team is a huge thing."
Head Coach Barry Trotz said Lehner was a "possibility" to return to the lineup on Thursday, a scenario that seems likely with Christopher Gibson's loan to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Trotz did not specify if Lehner would start, or just dress for the contest.
During Lehner's absence, goaltender Thomas Greiss recorded three wins, including a 2-0 shutout over Columbus on Monday, and a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday.
- Johnny Boychuk sat out Wednesday's practice and is still recovering after sustaining an upper-body injury on Saturday against Philadelphia. Boychuk sustained the injury after a hit from Flyers winger Jakub Voracek. Voracek was administered with a five-minute major for interference on the play and was subsequently suspended for two games. The Islanders defenseman has yet to skate on his own, per Trotz.
"He's getting better," Trotz said. "He has not skated yet. He's more day-to-day than anything. I wouldn't say he's week-to-week. He's just day-to-day, but not today."
- While the Islanders have gotten results in three of their last four games (3-1-0), the power play is still looking to get back on track. The Isles power play is on an 0-for-20 stretch over the past nine games and is 15.2% on the season. The Canadiens penalty kill is ranked 16th in the league at 80.4 percent.
- The Islanders are wrapping up a stretch of eight-of-nine games at NYCB Live. They are 3-4-0 in the first seven games.
- The Canadiens enter Thursday's contest after defeating Detroit 3-1 on Tuesday night. The win over the Wings snapped a two-game losing streak for the Habs, who lost two straight in San Jose and Anaheim by a combined score of 13-4.
- Goaltender Carey Price became the winningest goaltender in the Canadiens franchise history on Tuesday, recording his 315th career win, passing Jacques Plante. Price is 29-20-5 this season with a 2.59 GAA and a .914 SV% with three shutouts.
- Forward Tomas Tatar returned to the lineup against Detroit after suffering from the flu and missing the Canadiens against the Ducks on March 8. The left-wing sits second in the Canadiens leaderboard with 22 goals and 50 points.
- Max Domi leads Montreal in scoring with 24 goals and 62 points.