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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Panthers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are looking to get back in the win column tonight when they host the Florida Panthers at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are 17-5-0 at the Coliseum, good for a .773 winning percentage . Only three teams (Nashville, Tampa Bay and St. Louis) have a better winning percentage in home ice.

“We just have to continue to make sure that when teams come in this building that we do the job here,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “With our fans and how passionate they are, we’ve played pretty well here and we want to continue to do that because that’s the way you have success to get to the post season. You have to win your home games.”

Despite losing two straight to Boston and Detroit, Capuano said the team is recharged and refocused after a day off Sunday and a motivated practice Monday.  The coach said the two-game hiccup is no reason to alter the team’s course.

“I don’t want to change anything in our game,” Capuano said. “There are a few things in special teams we want to change, but from our standpoint, there aren’t too many things we want to change. We can’t be in panic mode because we lost a couple of games.”

The Islanders were forced to mix up their practice lines Monday, as Casey Cizikas took another maintenance day, while nursing a leg injury. Capuano said Cizikas “tweaked” something Saturday in Detroit.  In his absence, Colin McDonald re-entered the fold, skating on the third line, while Anders Lee jumped up to the top line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey.

“If (Cizikas) can go, he’ll go, but if not Colin McDonald has worked extremely hard,” Capuano said. “We have good depth… No matter who we put in that lineup, guys know their role and responsibility to help the team win.”

Whatever the Islanders forward corps looks like, it'll have a good test in a feisty Panthers team tonight. Florida is eight points out of a playoff spot, trailing the Washington Capitals, but with three games hand.

The Panthers have a bottom-five offense (118 goals scored, 25th in the league), but are winning games with a stifling style and strong goaltending from Roberto Luongo.

“They’ve surprised some people with how well they’ve played, especially with having a new coach,” Thomas Hickey said.” I think they’ve all bought into that and the style he plays is always work hard, but with structure as well.”

The Islanders won their first meeting 4-3 in a shootout in November, but the Panthers gave the Isles a scare in the third period, battling back from 3-1 and tying the game with 2:35 to play. Rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad – the first-overall pick in June’s draft – scored the game-tying goal and is off to a solid first season, scoring 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 47 games. Ekblad is second in team scoring. Nick Bjugstad leads the team with 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists).

The Islanders and Panthers face off at 7 p.m. The Islanders will wear special throwback “Fisherman” style jerseys during warm-ups.

New York Islanders
32-16-1 (65 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
17-5-0 home
Florida Panthers
21-17-10 (52 points - 5th in Atlantic Division, 9th in Eastern Conference)
11-9-6 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:
- Tavares Named NHL's 2nd Star of the Month (Feb. 2)
- Islanders Prospect Report (Feb. 2)
- Colin McDonald Recalled (Feb. 2)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Lower Lobby 5:00 p.m.
- Doors Open 5:45
- Islanders to wear Fisherman-style jerseys in warmups
Islanders player to watch
Lubomir Visnovsky - Defenseman

Lubomir Visnovsky returned to the Islanders lineup Saturday in Detroit and had an immediate impact, scoring a power-play goal. Visnovsky missed nine games after sustaining an injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 4. Visnovsky has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 30 games this season for the Islanders, his third year on Long Island.
Panthers player to watch
Brandon Pirri - Forward

Brandon Pirri is red hot for the Florida Panthers, with four goals in his last five games. The former Chicago Blackhawk was traded to Florida last season for a pair of draft picks. Pirri scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 21 games with the Panthers last season and has eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 24 games this season.
New York Islanders previous game lines
84 Mikhail Grabovski 91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
27 Anders Lee51 Frans Nielsen18 Ryan Strome
40 Michael Grabner 29 Brock Nelson86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck


2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
44 Calvin de Haan 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey11 Lubomir Visnovsky

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Florida Panthers previous game lines
11 Jonathan Huberdeau - 16 Aleksander Barkov - 24 Brad Boyes
14 Tomas Fleischmann - 27 Nick Bjugstad - 73 Brandon Pirri
20 Sean Bergernheim - 63 Dave Bolland - 36 Jussi Jokinen
19 Scottie Upshall - 17 Derek MacKenzie - 22 Shawn Thornton

51 Brian Campbell - 5 Aaron Ekblad
33 Willie Mitchell - 44 Erik Gudbranson
72 Alex Petrovic - 7 Dmitry Kulikov

1 Roberto Luongo
35 Al Montoya

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