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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Maple Leafs

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
If there’s one thing that the New York Islanders have learned in their past two games, it’s that there are no “gimmes” in the NHL.


The Islanders survived scares from the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers in their last two games and host the struggling, but physical Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at 7 p.m.

“There is no easy night in the NHL,” Jaroslav Halak said. “Edmonton came in and they had played back to back, but you have to give them credit, they played a good game and probably deserved better. In Buffalo it was a 3-0 game and then all of the sudden it was 3-2, they battled back. These games, these points, we need them and it’s going to make a difference at the end of the season.”

The Islanders held off the Sabres, dug deep against the Oilers and should expect to face a desperate Leafs squad tonight. The Leafs have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including a record-setting 11-game winless streak. They snapped the streak with a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, but lost to the New York Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday. 

“They are going to come in and play hard,” Brock Nelson said. “Coming off a loss, we can expect their best. We have to come ready to play and be a bit sharper than how we played against Edmonton. We were fortunate to come out with a win. We know we need to be better.”

The Leafs are playing for pride and their jobs for next season, which can be a lethal combination for a team sitting comfortably in the standings. The Leafs also beat the Islanders 5-2 on Oct. 21, behind a two-goal effort from Phil Kessel.

“They have a good team,” Halak said. “The last time they played here, it wasn’t a good game from our side. We ended up losing the game and obviously we weren’t happy, so we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again and that we play our game.”

Kessel leads the Leafs with 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) while James van Riemsdyk ties Kessel for the team lead in goals. Van Riemsdyk is second in Leafs scoring with 43 points. Cody Franson leads all Leafs defensemen with 32 points (six goals, 26 assists). Captain Dion Phaneuf is currently out week-to-week with a hand injury.

“They have a lot of weapons,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Obviously we saw that when you give them an opportunity - Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, or van Riemsdyk -  they have some game breakers.”

The Islanders have won two straight and three of their last four games, re-taking the Metropolitan Division lead in the process. The Islanders lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point entering tonight’s action.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
35-18-1 (71 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-3rd in Eastern Conference)
18-6-0 home
Toronto Maple Leafs
23-28-4 (50 points - 7th in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference)
7-16-4 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

Television:
MSG+
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:
- The Breakdown: Cizikas/McDonald (Feb. 11)
- Callin' McDonald (Feb. 11)
- Islanders 3, Oilers 2 (Feb. 11)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Doors Open at 5:45pm
- Lower Lobby 4:45pm
Islanders player to watch
Colin McDonald - Forward

Colin McDonald has done his job and then some since being recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The gritty forward has 15 hits in two games, but also has two goals and an assist. McDonald set up the game-winner Tuesday, laying out on his stomach with a terrific second effort to set up Casey Cizikas.
Maple Leafs player to watch
James van Riemsdyk - Forward

James van Riemsdyk is having a solid third season with the Maple Leafs, as he’s tied for the team lead in goals (21) and sits second in points (43). The Middletown, NJ, native is nine goals shy of tying a career high set last season. Van Riemsdyk is looking to break out of a five-game pointless drought.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
27 Anders Lee 91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
84 Mikhail Grabovski 51 Frans Nielsen – 18 Ryan Strome
16 Harry Zolnierczyk
29 Brock Nelson86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 13 Colin McDonald

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
37 Brian Strait 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey11 Lubomir Visnovsky

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Toronto Maple Leafs previous game lines
Forwards
26 Daniel Winnik - 43 Nazem Kadri - 26 Mike Santorelli
21 James van Riemsdyk - 42 Tyler Bozak - 81 Phil Kessel
47 Leo Komarov - 24 Peter Holland - 71 David Clarkson
20 David Booth - 23 Trevor Smith -
18 Richard Panik

Defensemen
51 Jake Gardiner - 4 Cody Franson
44 Morgan Reilly - 46 Roman Polak
55 Korbinian Holzer - 12 Stephane Robidas

Goaltenders
45 Jonathan Bernier
34 James Reimer


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