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Game Preview: Islanders vs Jets

The Islanders play the Jets in their final game before the holidays (Saturday - 1 p.m., MSG+, MSG GO)

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (18-13-4) VS WINNIPEG JETS (20-10-6)

DEC 23 - 1 P.M. - BARCLAYS CENTER - BUY TICKETS

TV: MSG+ MSG GO

RADIO: 88.7 WRHU, 660AM/101.9FM WFAN


The Islanders haven't had any issues scoring this season, but keeping the puck out of their net has been a concern, especially of late. 

The Islanders lost to the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 in overtime on Thursday night, the fourth time in five games they'd allowed five or more goals. In December, the Islanders are averaging 4.45 goals against and are 3-6-2 over that span. 

"Giving up five goals is just too many. We have to find a way to be better defensively starting with myself," John Tavares said after Thursday's game. "We were scoring enough goals, we just need to tighten up and run with the opportunities."

The Islanders view this as a team problem and said they need to give their two goalies, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, more support defensively. 

"That's always the case, everyone wants to point fingers at the goalies, we have to better in front of them as well, it's always a joint effort," Bailey said. "I'm sure you could find a lot of clips where they're bailing us out in certain situations, so it's always a team thing."

Video: ANA 5 vs. NYI 4: Doug Weight

Getting off to a better start is a priority for the Islanders, who have fallen behind by multiple goals in four of their last five games (Anaheim, LA, Columbus, Dallas). They managed to at least tie their games against Anaheim, LA and Columbus, but head coach Doug Weight said he'd like for his team to stop testing their resiliency. 

"We've put ourselves in that spot a few times and find ways to give ourselves chances to win after being down," Bailey said. "It's encouraging for sure. Obviously we'd like to flip the script a little though and start playing with leads."

The Islanders are still finding ways to score goals, as they are the second-highest scoring team in the NHL averaging 3.51 goals-per-game. The top line as been especially hot, as Bailey and Tavares are riding seven and six-game point streaks, respectively. Both Bailey (3A) and Tavares (2G, 1A) had three-point nights against Anaheim and co-lead the team with 45 points each this season. 

Saturday is the first of two meetings between the Islanders and Jets, who will meet again on Dec. 29 in Winnipeg. The Islanders have won four of their last five meetings vs the Jets, but Winnipeg took the lone meeting 4-2 at Barclays Center last season. 

LINEUP NOTES: 

UPDATE: Jaroslav Halak will start in goal. Anthony Beauvillier in for Steve Bernier. 

The Islanders tinkered with their third and fourth lines at Friday's practice. Shane Prince practiced with Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and Steve Bernier, while Jason Chimera, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck were reunited on the fourth line. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 

7-for-17 on the power play - The Islanders power play is 7-for-17 over the past five games and is 4-for-6 over the past two games. 

3.51 and 3.28 goals-per-game - The Islanders (3.51) and Jets (3.28) are two of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. The Isles are second in the NHL, while the Jets are fourth. 

35 - assists for Josh Bailey. Bailey leads the NHL in assists and is currently on a seven-game point streak. 

THE JETS: 

Last game: 2-1 L at Boston

Leading scorers: 
Goals:
Patrik Laine - 18
Assists: Wheeler - 32
Points: Wheeler - 41

Power Play: 24.6% - 4th
Penalty Kill: 80% - 20th

The Jets are off to their best start since returning to Winnipeg in the 2011-12 season, sitting in second in the Central Division with 20 wins and 46 points. 

After years of acquiring and developing young talent, the Jets are seeing the fruits of their labor. Mark Scheifele (drafted seventh overall in 2011) has turned into a reliable scorer with 37 points (15G, 22A) in 36 games this season, while Patrik Laine has followed up a sensational rookie season with 18 goals this season, sixth most in the NHL. Jets 2014 first-round pick (ninth overall) Nikolaj Ehlers has 17 goals and 28 points in his third season with the team. 

Scheifele, Laine and Ehlers all find themselves behind leading scorer Blake Wheeler, who has 41 points (9G, 32A) this season - seventh most in the league. 

All four are a part of the reason the Jets are the second highest-scoring team in the Western Conference and fourth in the NHL with 3.28 goals-per-game. 

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck has taken the reins in his third season with the team. Hellebuyck is 18-4-5 this season with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. 

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