Four seems to be a popular number around the New York Islanders these days.
The Isles bring a four-game winning streak into Thursday's matchup against the Arizona Coyotes, and are coming off a lengthy four-day break. Their opponent is also riding a four-game heater, so Thursday's Isles-Yotes matchup shapes up as a contest between two hot teams.
It's been too long since the Isles were last on the ice, especially at home, so let's get down to business. Here's what you need to know. More updates to come after the team's morning skate.
MORNING SKATE UPDATES:
- Casey Cizikas will return to the lineup after missing five games with a lower-body injury. Cizikas said the Isles long layoff was a blessing in disguise, allowing him to get some additional practice time.
"I feel good out there," Cizikas said. "Going into this week I wasn't really sure what the outcome would be or how I was going to feel on the ice. The moment I stepped on I felt good from the get-go."
- Semyon Varlamov was the first goalie off the ice at the Isles morning skate, suggesting he'll be the starter for Thursday's game. Varlamov is 2-2-0 this season with a 2.55 GAA and a .923 SV%.
- Derick Brassard is expected to play on the wing on Thursday alongside Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier. Josh Bailey will skate on the top line with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.
- Darcy Kuemper will start in goal for the Coyotes. Kuemper has won four straight games and is 4-2-0 to start the season with a 1.68 GAA and a .944 SV%. Kuemper has gone 13 straight starts allowing two goals or fewer, breaking Nikolai Khabibulan's franchise record of 11 straight starts, dating back to the 1998-99 season. After serving as a backup in Minnesota, LA and Arizona, Kuemper came into his own last season, setting career-highs in games (55), wins (27) and shutouts (5).
- The Coyotes are going back to the same lineup from Tuesday's win over the Rangers.
- The Islanders have won four straight games entering Thursday's affair. Three of the wins (Florida, St. Louis and Columbus) have come in overtime/shootout, where the Isles are a perfect 3-0 this season.
- The most recent win came on Saturday night, as the Isles beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in OT. Brock Nelson scored the OT winner while Thomas Greiss made 34 saves in the win.
- Mathew Barzal is riding a three-game goal streak. Barzal has four goals over that span and is tied with Nelson for the team lead in goals (4) and points (7).
- Tom Kuhnhackl returned to practice on Wednesday after taking a pair of maintenance days on Sunday and Tuesday.
- Leo Komarov is day to day as he continues to recover from an illness. Komarov missed Saturday's game and has missed three straight practices.
- Casey Cizikas has participated in two straight practices with the Islanders, but his status for Thursday is TBD. Cizikas is still on injured reserve with a lower-body injury that he aggravated on Oct. 8. The two practices mark Cizikas' first skates with the team since Oct. 8.
- Josh Bailey skated alongside Barzal and Anders Lee on the Islanders top line at Wednesday's practice. Kuhnhackl had spent the previous three games alongside Lee and Barzal.
"Bails is such a good player that moving him around a little bit allows us to do different things," Trotz said. "He plays both wings. I think we can get a little bit more out of [that line]. We miss Ebs with that line a little bit."
- Derick Brassard practiced at left wing - alongside Nelson - on Wednesday, a scenario Trotz said the Islanders "may look at" for Thursday's game.
- Thursday's game marks the first of back-to-back contests for the Isles, who head to Ottawa for a Friday night date with the Senators. Expect to see Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss split the two games. Both goalies have won their last two starts.
- Brock Nelson has six points (3G, 3A) in his last five games.
- The Islanders swept last year's season series with the Coyotes, winning 3-1 in Arizona and 2-0 at the Coliseum in late March.
- The Islanders have points in six straight games against the Coyotes (4-0-2) and are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.
- The Isles have won six straight home games against the Coyotes and haven't lost since Oct. 29, 2002.
- Thomas Greiss spent one season with the Coyotes in 2013-14. Greiss played 25 games, going 10-8-5 with a 2.29 GAA and a .920 SV%.
- Michael Grabner spent five seasons with the Islanders (2010-15), recording 144 points (90G, 54A). Defenseman Aaron Ness, who was recalled by the Coyotes on Oct. 19, was drafted by the Islanders in 2008. Ness played 29 games with the Islanders and spent parts of five seasons in Bridgeport, captaining the Sound Tigers in 2014-15.
- The Coyotes have won four straight games, most recently beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in OT on Tuesday night. Arizona is 5-0-1 in their last six games.
- The Coyotes are the stingiest team in the NHL thus far, leading the league with 1.88 goals-against per game. Arizona is the only team allowing fewer than two goals per game. They have allowed 15 total goals through eight games this season.
"All four lines come at you, they don't give you much time and space," Trotz said of Arizona. "They put you under duress the whole time. They don't take the foot off the pedal. They come at you real hard, they're playing with a lot of confidence, good special teams and they play a 200-foot game."
Trotz went on to say he was impressed with the Coyotes team game after watching their win over the Ranger, as well as Arizona's special teams and goaltending.
- Phil Kessel was the Coyotes' marquee addition over the summer. Kessel was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade for Alex Galchenyuk. Kessel, who recently played his 1,000th NHL game, has four points (2G, 2A) in eight games with his new team.
- Goalie Darcy Kuemper has gone 13 straight starts allowing two goals or fewer, breaking Nikolai Khabibulan's franchise record of 11 straight starts, dating back to the 1998-99 season. After serving as a backup in Minnesota, LA and Arizona, Kuemper came into his own last season, setting career-highs in games (55), wins (27) and shutouts (5).
- Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is out with a broken fibula (suffered on Oct. 12) and is expected to miss three months. Jordan Oesterle is also out as he's in the NHL's concussion protocol after being stuck in the head with a puck on Oct. 18.
- With two defensemen sidelined, the Coyotes recalled former Islander Aaron Ness from Tuscon on Oct. 19.
- Coyotes scoring leader Nick Schmaltz is currently riding a six-game point streak (3G, 6A).