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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Maple Leafs

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

It’ll be a reunion of sorts tonight for Nikolay Kulemin when the New York Islanders take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nassau Coliseum.


Kulemin will face his former team for the first time, after spending his entire six-year NHL career with the Leafs before signing a four-year deal with the Islanders this summer.

“It’s going to be a really interesting game playing against the guys that I played together with for a while,” Kulemin said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. For sure, I’ll be giving my best against my old team.”

Mikhail Grabovski, Kulemin’s teammate in Toronto for five seasons, will not get to face off against his former team tonight, as he is sidelined with a concussion suffered Thursday against the San Jose Sharks. The pair played together for a majority of their time in Toronto, but have been split up on Long Island. Grabovski has held second-line duties, while Kulemin has played on the third line this season, but Kulemin took Grabovski’s wing on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Click here for Kulemin's stats, bio, photos and highlights.
“He’s been as advertised,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said of Kulemin. “Great puck protection, he uses his body to protect the puck, he doesn’t expose the puck in the offensive zone. He makes the simple play when he doesn’t have anything. He plays exactly how we want to play.”

Kulemin and the Islanders are looking to rebound after having their four-game, season-opening winning streak snapped Saturday. The Islanders managed one goal on 35 shots Saturday, but are averaging four goals-per-game, which ties for first in the NHL. Also tied for first in the NHL is John Tavares, who co-leads the league with nine points (2G, 7A) despite having his four-game point streak snapped Saturday.

The Maple Leafs enter the game having lost two straight in a back-to-back, home-and-home set with the Detroit Red Wings.

While Phil Kessel doesn’t currently lead the Leafs in scoring – honors go to linemate Tyler Bozak – Kessel is the Leafs most potent goal scorer and has led the team in points for five straight seasons. Kessel has magnificent speed and a lethal shot, so the Islanders will have to keep an eye on the right wing. The 27-year-old Kessel has five points (2G, 3A), one behind Bozak’s six (3G, 3A).

The Leafs roster did not radically change this summer, so mainstays Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson all return. Notables who are gone include David Bolland (free agency), Carl Gunnarsson (traded to St. Louis) and Mason Raymond (free agency).

The Islanders went 2-1-0 against the Maple Leafs last season, taking the lone meeting at Nassau Coliseum 5-4 (OT) on Feb. 27.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
4-1-0 (8 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
2-0-0 home
Toronto Maple Leafs
2-3-1 (5 points - 6th in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference)
1-0-1 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

Television:
MSG PLUS 2
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:
- Isles TV: Jack Capuano Media Scrum (Oct. 20)
- Islanders Prospect Report (Oct. 20)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Doors Open at 5:45pm
- Lower Lobby 4:45pm
- Prostate Cancer Awareness Night
- Merch Deal of the Game - $20 Frans Nielsen Shirts
Islanders player to watch
Nikolay Kulemin - Forward

Nikolay Kulemin is settling into life as an Islander, with two assists in his first five games with his new team. Prior to signing a four-year deal this summer, the 28-year-old winger played six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring 30 goals in 2010-11. Kulemin brings grit and a big body (6’1, 226 lbs.) to the Islanders “middle six,” using his size to generate turnovers. Kulemin's best Isles moment so far, was setting up John Tavares for a goal against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Maple Leafs player to watch
Phil Kessel - Forward

Phil Kessel is the Maple Leafs top offensive threat, having led the team in scoring in all five of his seasons in Toronto. Kessel is coming off a 37-goal, 80-point season and is currently second in team scoring with five points (2G, 3A) in six games. A lethal sniper, Kessel’s 59 goals only trail Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry for the league lead over the past three seasons. Through 592 NHL games, the 27-year-old Kessel has 464 points (224G, 240A).
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
89 Cory Conacher 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
86 Nikolay Kulemin 29 Brock Nelson – 18 Ryan Strome
12 Josh Bailey
51 Frans Nielsen15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 13 Colin McDonald

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
3 Travis Hamonic
44 Calvin de Haan 37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Toronto Maple Leafs previous game lines
Forwards
21 James van Riemsdyk 42 Tlyer Bozak 81 Phil Kessel
19 Joffrey Lupul
43 Nazem Kadri 26 Daniel Winnik
47 Leo Komarov
25 Mike Santorelli 71 David Clarkson
39 Matt Frattin
24 Peter Holland 18 Richard Panik

Defensemen
3 Dion Phaneuf
4 Cody Franson
44 Morgan Rielly
46 Roman Polak
51 Jake Gardiner
12 Stephane Robidas

Goaltenders
45 Jonathan Bernier
34 James Reimer


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