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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Senators

by Jacob Betzner / New York Islanders
With an impressive 11-win November in the books, the New York Islanders kick off the December tonight against the Ottawa Senators.

The Islanders entered December tied with the most wins in the NHL (17), backed by stellar play from goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who earned first star of the week honors from the league on Monday. Halak finished the week with a 3-0-0 record, one shutout, a 0.95 goals against average and a .964 save percentage. With his win on Saturday against New Jersey, Halak set a personal record with nine consecutive wins and could tie the Islanders record of 10 straight set by Billy Smith in 1982.

Last week only built on a strong November for Halak, who recorded a 9-1-0 record with three shutouts, a 1.37 goals against average and a .950 save percentage. Forward Kyle Okposo said the Islanders really started coming together after a lengthy Western road trip at the beginning of the month and believed Halak deserved the honor.

“[Halak] is a humble guy,” Okposo said. “He’s confident and we have so much confidence in him. We’re trying to help him out the best we can by putting our best effort out in front of him to give him as many easy saves as possible.”

Sticking true to the character description from Okposo, Halak, while happy with the acclaim, instead highlighted the success of the team as a whole.

“It’s a reflection of everybody, not only myself,” he said. “You need your teammates to perform well and everybody needs to do their job on the ice. We just need to work hard everyday and try to do our best every game we play because if you don’t play well the next game, it doesn’t mean anything what we did in the last game.”

Halak said the Islanders gelling is what has led to both team and personal success. He added that the team needs to continue playing well and take the good with the bad with only a quarter of the season played so far.

“I always say just go day-by-day, game-by-game and don’t think about what’s ahead of you too much, just enjoy it,” he said. “That’s the one thing you have to do, enjoy it when you go out there and do your best. You just need to relax a little bit and just have fun. That’s why we all start playing hockey when we’re kids, because it was fun for us and sometimes you just forget how much fun it is. It’s always fun when you’re winning.”

The Ottawa Senators come into tonight’s game hoping to rebound after two consecutive losses. Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said the Senators thrive on capitalizing on mistakes made by the opposition. The Islanders will look to grab momentum early to extend a six-game home winning streak.

“[The Ottawa Senators] are a pretty physical team,” Capuano said. “Goaltending, with [Craig] Anderson and [Robin] Lehner back there is a strong part of their team. For us, it’s making sure that we match their intensity level no matter who comes in this building and making sure that we play structured. They have a few guys up front that can be very dangerous up front that we have to make sure that we contain.”

Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the team with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 23 games, while goaltender Craig Anderson ranks third in the NHL with a .932 save percentage.

The Islanders look to keep rolling into December, starting with the Senators at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

New York Islanders
17-7-0 (34 points – T-1st in Metropolitan Division, T-1st in Eastern Conference)
9-2-0 home
Ottawa Senators
10-9-4 (24 points - T-6th in Atlantic Division, T-9th in Eastern Conference)
5-7-1 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:
- Halak Named NHL's First Star (Dec. 1)
- Holiday Helpers (Dec. 1)
- Islanders Prospect Report (Dec. 1)
- Islanders 3, Devils 1 (Nov. 29)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Lower Lobby Opens at 5 p.m.
- Doors Open at 5:45 p.m.
Islanders player to watch
Casey Cizikas - Forward

The Islanders fourth-line center is usually tasked with bringing energy in a checking role, but Casey Cizikas has one of the hottest sticks for the Islanders, potting four points (one goal, three assists) on a three-game point streak. Cizikas set up the game-winning goal on Saturday night, winning a key offensive zone draw against the New Jersey Devils. The Toronto, ON, native also added an empty-netter for his third goal and seventh point of the season. Cizikas has points in five of his last seven games.
Senators player to watch
Erik Karlsson - Defenseman

Erik Karlsson leads the Ottawa Senators from the back end, both as the team’s captain and scoring leader. The Swedish defenseman has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 23 games this season and led the Senators with 74 points (20 goals, 54 assists) last year. Karlsson is a smooth skater and always a threat to go end-to-end or score on the power play. Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the league’s past defenseman during the 2011-12 season, when he scored a career-high 78 points (19 goals, 59 assists).
New York Islanders previous game lines
86 Nikolay Kulemin
91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen12 Josh Bailey
27 Anders Lee
29 Brock Nelson 18 Ryan Strome
17 Matt Martin
53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck


2 Nick Leddy 46 Matt Donovan
44 Calvin de Haan
3 Travis Hamonic
11 Thomas Hickey 37 Brian Strait

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Ottawa Senators previous game lines
16 Clarke MacArthur - 7 Kyle Turris - 90 Alex Chiasson
14 Colin Greening - 93 Mika Zibanejad - 9 Milan Michalek
22 Erik Condra - 17 David Legwand - 25 Chris Neil
68 Mike Hoffman - 27 Curtis Lazar - 61 Mark Stone

4 Chris Phillips - 65 Erik Karlsson
46 Patrick Wiercioch - 62 Eric Gryba
2 Jared Cowen - 5 Cody Ceci

41 Craig Anderson
40 Robin Lehner

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