Five of the Islanders last six games have either been against one of the NHL’s top teams (Chicago, Montreal and the Rangers) or one of the NHL’s hottest Minnesota and Ottawa).
It doesn’t get any easier tonight, as the Islanders host the reigning Stanley Cup champs at Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m. The Kings are currently outside of a playoff spot, but are finding their form late in the season, which is actually right on schedule.
“For whatever reason they’ve had their struggles, but they are a team that knows how to win,” Matt Martin said. “You can pretty well bank on them around this time of the year being a very hard team to play against. They are a team that’s won two Cups in the last three years. They know exactly what it takes to win and to be successful.”
The Kings are two points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand. They are coming off a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night and are 6-2-2 in their last 10.
A reigning champion playing desperate hockey is a tough matchup for any team, even the Islanders, who are second in the Metropolitan Division.
“They know where they are, they know the push they need to make,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They have great leadership on their team. They have guys that have been there before and they get it.
The Islanders are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. The Islanders carried the play for much of the contest, but ran into a hot goaltender. John Tavares scored the Islanders lone goal, retaking the league’s scoring lead (74 points) while also busting out of a five-game goalless drought.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 31-of-32 shots against the Wild and has allowed one goal in two games since returning from a lower-body injury. Jonathan Quick is expected to start for the Kings. Quick has won two straight and is 32-19-12 with six shutouts this season.
Offensively, Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 59 points (15 goals, 44 assists), while Jeff Carter leads the team with 26 goals and is second with 54 points. Drew Doughty leads all Kings defensemen with 41 points (five goals, 36 assists) on the back end.
The Islanders beat the Kings 2-1 in a shootout in their lone meeting this season. Brock Nelson scored the Islanders lone goal in regulation, while Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each buried in the shootout. Capuano is expecting a similar style of grinding hockey when the teams hook up tonight.
“You want to measure yourself against these teams,” Capuano said. “This will be a heavy game, this will be a strong game.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m.