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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Ducks

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The Islanders kick off a three game homestand when they take on the Anaheim Ducks Thursday at the Coliseum. Two games will be played against their Western Conference foes.

Thursday night’s meeting will be the second time the Islanders face the Ducks this season. The Islanders fell 1-0 to the Ducks on Nov. 10. The Ducks have won three of their last four games and are sixth overall in the Western Conference with 36 points (compared to the Islanders 15 points).

“The Ducks have turned the corner, and the (Ryan) Getzlaf, (Corey) Perry, Bobby Ryan line is one of the best in hockey,” Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski said. “The other night (against Minnesota), Perry had 3 goals and 2 assists in a 6-2 win, and Getzlaf had 2 goals. Maybe this will be a turning point for us, playing a team that is red hot. Maybe we can get some bounces and turn the corner here.”

James Wisniewski #20 of the New York Islanders skates away from Patric Hornqvist #27 of the Nashville Predators during an NHL game on December 13, 2010 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Turning the corner will be a challenge. The Ducks rank ninth in the League on the power play as they score goals 20.5 percent of the time they have a man advantage. Corey Perry leads the Ducks with 35 points (and is seventh in the League rankings), Ryan Getzlaf has 32 points (13th in the League) and Lubomir Visnovsky ranks fourth on the defensive scoring charts with 25 points.

Forward Matt Moulson leads the Islanders in scoring with 16 points, while Wisniewski, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau each have 15 points. Almost 20 points behind the Ducks leading scorer, Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said the key to an Islanders victory is putting points on the score board.

“Scoring goals,” Capuano said. “We out-chanced them (the Atlanta Thrashers) 11-9 after two periods, getting grade-A opportunities, we just don’t always get the puck off of our sticks as quick as we need to, but the opportunity is there. We have to make sure that we bury our chances. We had some pretty good chances in that game and we just have to put the light on.”

Despite the losses, Capuano said the young players on the team have been playing sound.

“I think the lines are playing pretty well,” Capuano said. “We have some young kids up front obviously. Jesse (Joensuu) is getting a chance, Matty Martin is getting more ice time, and I thought (Rhett) Rakhshani played fairly well in the game that he played. The kids are young and they are working hard. Hopefully if they continue to go to the net and do the right things, then we will get the bounces at some point because the chances are there.”

Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders skates against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 11, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
But the last seven weeks haven’t been easy for the Islanders young squad. Whether it’s just been a few days or over a month, they’ve lost all of their veteran presence due to injury.

“It’s tough,” Capuano said. “When you lose Dougie (Weight) and you lose Trent Hunter and you lose Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton, you lose some experience in that room. So, what do you do about it? Other guys have to step up, and I think that they have. We have good kids, we have good character guys on the team that have stepped up, but it does hurt you a bit in game situations.”

Despite the man-games lost column, the Islanders have been working just as hard, if not harder. They’ve been having more difficult practices and more frequent meetings. While they’re frustrated about their current record, they’re also optimistic about their future.

While their spirits may be crushed at times, all of the players are still looking at the positive parts of their game, learning about what kind of effort they need to put forth every night and are doing everything they can to win some hockey games.

“The group of guys here are unbelievable and that helps through a time like this, where we can fight this together,” Wisniewski said. “There are not different groups here and there, separating the room. Right now, all we can do is fight like a family and keep going, just trying to turn the corner.”
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