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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Flames

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Fresh off their first two-day break in nearly a month, the Islanders get back to the grind tonight against the Calgary Flames at 7 p.m.

The schedule and injury bug haven’t been kind to the Islanders over the last month, but the team’s depth has carried them through and two days off have helped heal various bumps and bruises.

“Everyone is going through the same thing as we are,” Travis Hamonic said of the injuries and the compacted schedule. “This time of year everyone is banged up, bruised up, that’s just the nature of the game.”

The Islanders are 9-6-1 since losing Kyle Okposo during the All-Star Break, 3-1-1 since losing Casey Cizikas and 1-1-1 without Mikhail Grabovski. They’ve gotten steady contributions from Anders Lee, who has 14 points in 13 games filling in for Okposo on the top line, as well as call-ups like Kael Mouillierat, who scored his first two points Tuesday, and Colin McDonald, who has eight points since his recall.

“It gives other guys an opportunity, but there’s no question we miss those guys,” Capuano said. “The guys know we have to play within the team concept and play structured hockey to win.”

Adding to the injury watch, Frans Nielsen took a maintenance day Thursday. The Danish center fell awkwardly into the boards on Sunday, but played in Tuesday’s win.

Captain John Tavares has also found a new level over the past two weeks, scoring 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his last seven games. He is fourth in league scoring with 63 points (29 goals, 34 assists) in 62 games, including a pair of goals in the Islanders 2-1 win over Calgary on Jan. 4. 

The Flames are in a dogfight in the Western Conference playoff race, as the fifth seed and 10th seed are separated by six points. The Flames currently occupy the ninth seed, but they will need every point possible to keep pace with the red-hot LA Kings and Minnesota Wild while holding off the San Jose Sharks. They are 1-1-0 in the first two games of their trip, so the Islanders should expect to see a desperate hockey team tonight.

“I’m hoping we come out with the fire that we need against a really good Calgary team,” Capuano said. “They’re a team that works extremely hard and has tremendous goaltending. They have a good back end and some good firepower up front. We have to make sure that we come out and start on time. It’s a big game for us here.”

Jiri Hudler (19 goals, 29 assists) and Mark Giordano (11 goals, 37 assists) lead the Flames with 48 points apiece. Sean Monahan leads the Flames with 21 goals, while Giordano leads the team – and all NHL defensemen – with 37 assists. Giordano has played himself into the Norris Trophy conversation, as he leads all big-league D-men in points, while rookie Johnny Gaudreau is in the Calder Trophy conversation with 15 goals and 40 points this season.

The Flames offense extends beyond their team leaders, as Calgary boasts nine players with 10-or-more goals. Giordano, Gaudreau and Hudler are the household names, but physical winger Lance Bouma has 12 goals while David Jones and Mason Raymond each have 11.

“They have some offensive defensemen that are really good and some skilled forwards,” Lee said. “They are on a long road trip through the east, so we have to have to get on them and use our home-ice advantage.”

Puck drop is at 7 p.m. 

New York Islanders
40-20-2 (82 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
22-8-0 home
Calgary Flames
33-24-4 (70 points 4th in Pacific Division, 9th in Western Conference)
16-12-1 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau 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:
- Worth the Weight (Feb. 26)

- Nick Leddy on Sirius XM (Feb. 26)
- Voting Open for Bobby Nystrom Award (Feb. 26)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:

- Lower Lobby Opens at 5 p.m.

- Doors Open at 5:45 p.m.

Islanders player to watch
Brock Nelson
- Forward

Brock Nelson cooled off after a hot start to the season, but found the back of the net for the second time in five games on Tuesday. The 23-year-old center added an assist Tuesday for his first multi-point game since Dec. 19. Nelson is fourth in Islanders’ scoring with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) this season and is third on the team in goals.

Flames player to watch
Johnny Gaudreau - Forward

Johnny Gaudreau is having a fabulous rookie season for the Flames, with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 60 games. Nicknamed “Johnny Hockey,” Gaudreau is second in the rookie scoring race, eight points back of Filip Forsberg, and is competing against Islanders’ winger Anders Lee for Calder Trophy consideration for the rookie of the year. 
New York Islanders previous game lines
27 Anders Lee
91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner 51 Frans Nielsen 18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin
29 Brock Nelson
15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin
48 Kael Mouillierat 13 Colin McDonald


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

30 Chad Johnson
41 Jaroslav Halak
Calgary Flames previous game lines
13 Johnny Gaudreau - 23 Sean Monahan - 24 Jiri Hudler
17 Lance Bouma - 11 Mikael Backlund - 19 David Jones
20 Curtis Glencross - 86 Josh Jorris - 8 Joe Colborne
79 Michael Ferland - 60 Markus Granlund - 57 Emile Poirier

5 Mark Giordano - 7 T.J. Brodie
4 Kris Russell - 6 Dennis Wideman
33 Raphael Diaz - 29 Deryk Engelland

1 Jonas Hiller
31 Karri Ramo

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