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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Canadiens

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams face off tonight as the New York Islanders host the Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders (23-10-0) enter the game in sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference, while the Canadiens (21-11-2) lead the Atlantic Division, two points back of the Isles.

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk frequently played the Canadiens when he was on the Boston Bruins, one of Montreal’s top rivals. Boychuk played the Habs 20 times in the regular season and another 14 postseason games, so he brings a lot of experience against the bleu, blanc et rouge.

“They are a good team, a fast team and they have a lot of skill,” Boychuk said. “They are one of the top teams in the league always, they always work hard and never quit. You have to take away their time and space like we have been doing against every other team we’ve been playing.”

The Islanders have won four straight games, including a come-from behind 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. The Lightning and Canadiens are currently tied with 44 points, but Montreal has played one fewer game.

This season, the Islanders are 12-3-0 when allowing the first goal.

“We’re not quitting,” Boychuk said. “That’s what we’ve been doing. Even when we were down last time, we knew that we had to keep doing the same things and good things will happen.”

The Islanders ties to the Canadiens run further than Boychuk. Jaroslav Halak started his career in Montreal, including a breakout performance taking the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. John Tavares won an Olympic gold medal in Sochi with P.K. Subban and Carey Price.

“They are both great players, world-class players,” Tavares said. “They are really horses for their team. They are two guys that are going to be a good test for us tomorrow.”

Subban (eight goals, 14 assists) is a top-10 scorer among NHL defensemen and is one of the NHL’s most electrifying players, known for his fast rushes up the ice and pounding one-timers on the power play.

“He just plays hard,” Tavares said. “He’s very intense and obviously very skilled. A strong guy as well. He uses his physicality. For me it’s another opportunity, another challenge to go out and play my game, generate chances and capitalize.”

Price is having another excellent season in the Montreal crease, with an 18-9-1 record, a 2.27 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. He’s 4-1-0 in his last five starts and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game over that span.

Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens in goals (13), points (27), plus-minus (+16) and shots (116). Pacioretty has been playing with young center Alex Galchenyuk, who is second on the Canadiens with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists).

The Islanders look to head into the Christmas break on a five-game win streak when the puck drops at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
23-10-0 (46 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
13-3-0 home
Montreal Canadiens
21-11-2 (44 points - 1st in Atlantic Division, T-3rd in Eastern Conference)
8-7-1 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Uniondale, NY

Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders Prospect Report
(Dec. 20)
- Islanders 3, Lightning 1 (Dec. 20)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:

- Doors at 5:45pm
- Lower Lobby 5pm
Islanders player to watch
John Tavares - Forward

John Tavares came through in the clutch on Saturday night, scoring the game-tying goal with 3:09 to play in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tavares’ tally – his 13th of the season – sparked the Islanders to a comeback win. The captain has 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 33 games this season, including two overtime winners against the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks.
Canadiens player to watch
Max Pacioretty - Forward

Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens in a variety of offensive categories, including goals (13), points (27), plus-minus (+16) and shots on goal (116). Pacioretty has typically been a finisher – scoring a career high 39 goals last season – but has racked up the assists of late, notching five in his last three games. The 6’2, 214 lbs. winger is big and skilled and will be the main focus for the Islanders shutdown defensemen.
New York Islanders previous game lines
12 Josh Bailey 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen86 Nikolay Kulemin
27 Anders Lee
29 Brock Nelson 18 Ryan Strome
17 Matt Martin – 
53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck


44 Calvin de Haan 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy
55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
11 Lubomir Visnovsky

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson

Montreal Canadiens previous game lines
67 Max Pacioretty - 27 Alex Galchenyuk - 11 Brendan Gallagher
8 Brandon Prust - 14 Tomas Plekanec - 26 Jiri Sekac
51 David Desharnais - 81 Lars Eller - 15 PA Parenteau
58 Sven Andrighetto - 20 Manny Malhotra - 22 Dale Weise

79 Andrei Markov - 76 P.K. Subban
55 Sergei Gonchar - 74 Alexei Emelin
28 Nathan Beaulieu - 77 Tom Gilbert

31 Carey Price
35 Dustin Tokarski

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