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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Coyotes

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders look to halt a two-game winless streak tonight when they welcome the Arizona Coyotes to Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m.


The Islanders had an optional skate Monday after playing five games in seven days, the most hockey that can be played under the NHL’s current rules. The team held video meetings to review the good and bad from the past week. They re-iterated that they were satisfied with their five-on-five performance against the Canucks, but that special teams (PP 0-for-5, PK 1-for-3) need to improve, especially given the Coyotes fifth-ranked power play.

“The consistency isn’t where we’d like it to be,” Captain John Tavares said of the Islanders penalty kill unit. “At points, it’s come up huge for us and at other times, we’ve let it cost us games. We have to get back to some of the fundamentals and address some of those things.”

Head Coach Jack Capuano said he had “good hopes” for Frans Nielsen one day after the Islanders’ center fell awkwardly into the boards Sunday night. Nielsen briefly left the game, but returned and played the third period. Capuano said Nielsen’s would be reevaluated Monday afternoon.

“He’s a tough kid, wants to be in there, but we’ll wait and see how he feels,” Capuano said. “Fortunately it looked a little worse than what it was going to be. That’s a good sign for us.”

Nielsen was the hero of the first meeting between the Islanders and Coyotes back in November, breaking a scoreless draw with 2:31 remaining for the 1-0 win. Tavares felt that the score wasn’t indicative of how well the Islanders played in the desert.

“We gave up seven shots at even strength,” Tavares said. “It was a game we played very well in. It was at the end of a road trip where I think we proved a lot to ourselves. We played really well there and their goalie played an excellent that game. We had a lot of opportunities. We stuck with it and found a way at the end.”

Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves against the Coyotes for the shutout. Capuano hasn’t named a starter for tonight’s game, but should Halak start he’ll have another crack at his 33rd win of the season, which would set a new Islanders’ single-season record.

The Islanders are 3-0-1 in their last four home games against the Coyotes.

The Coyotes are playing out the second half of back-to-back games, losing 3-0 to the New Jersey Devils on Monday night in Newark.

The Coyotes are in the midst of a tough season, having lost six in a row/five of their last six, while sitting 13th in the Western Conference. Arizona is 29th in goals-per-game (2.15) and 27th in goals against per game (3.27), but have two potent weapons in defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yandle has a team-high 40 points (four goals, 36 assists), while Ekman-Larsson leads the ‘Yotes with 17 goals.

The Islanders and Coyotes are at opposite ends of the standings, but the Islanders know they can’t look past any opponent and that Tuesday’s game is at must-win.

“You can’t take any team lightly, can’t take any game for granted and tomorrow’s a big game for us,” Tavares said. “We’ve lost two in a row and we want to get back on track.”

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
39-20-2 (80 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
21-8-0 home
Arizona Coyotes
20-33-7 (47 points - 6th in Pacific Division, 13th in Western Conference)
11-17-3 road
7:00 p.m.
Nassau Coliseum

Uniondale, NY

Television:
MSG
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 (Nov. 6)
- Canucks 4, Islanders 0 (Nov. 6)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Lower Lobby Opens at 5:00 p.m.
- Doors Open at 5:45 p.m.
Islanders player to watch
John Tavares - Center

J
ohn Tavares had his five-game point streak (five goals, six assists) snapped Sunday, but the streak vaulted the Islanders’ captain into the Art Ross Trophy race for the league’s leading scorer. Tavares has 62 points (29 goals, 33 assists) this season, two shy of the league lead. The first-overall pick in the 2009 draft is currently the highest-scoring Canadian in the NHL. 
Coyotes player to watch
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Defenseman

Oliver Ekman-Larsson leads all NHL defensemen with 17 goals this season, also making him the Coyotes’ top goal scorer. Ekman-Larsson has 30 points this season and is 14 shy of his career high (44) set last year, though the 17 tallies are a career-best. The Coyotes defenseman has two points (one goal, one assist) in his last four games.

New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
27 Anders Lee 91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner 51 Frans Nielsen18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin – 29 Brock Nelson 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin 48 Kael Mouillierat 13 Colin McDonald

Defensemen

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

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Arizona Coyotes previous game lines
Forwards
38 Lucas Lessio - 50 Antoine Vermette - 19 Shane Doan
8 Tobias Rieder - 36 Mark Arcobello - 9 Sam Gagner
28 Lauri Korpikoski - 24 Kyle Chipchura - 10 Martin Erat
48 Jordan Martinook - 14 Joe Vitale - 18 David Moss

Defensemen
23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson - 5 Connor Murphy
3 Keith Yandle - 45 Andrew Campbell
33 Brandon Gormley - 26 Michael Stone

Goaltenders
41 Mike Smith
43 Mike McKenna


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