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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Stars

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Two of the league’s top one-two punches face off tonight, as John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and the New York Islanders take on Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and the Dallas Stars at Nassau Coliseum.


Tavares and Okposo have asserted themselves as one of the league’s top tandems, combining for 20 points (6G, 14A) in the Islanders first seven games. Tavares is tied for second in league scoring with 11 points (3G, 8A) while Okposo sits in the top-10 with nine points (3G, 6A). Tavares assisted on Okposo’s goal Thursday against Boston, marking the fifth game the duo hooked up on an Islanders goal this season.

Tavares and Okposo powered the Islanders to a 4-2 comeback win over the Stars on Jan. 12, as Okposo scored twice to tie the game while Tavares won it late in the third period. The Islanders swept the season series in 2013-14, exploding for seven goals in a 7-3 win at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 6. The win featured a hat trick for Tavares and Ryan Strome’s first NHL goal.

The Islanders top tandem is countered by one of the most dynamic duos in the NHL in Seguin and Benn. The pair combined for 163 points last season (71G, 92A), trailing only Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the most by a set of linemates. (Tavares and Okposo combined for 135 points (51G, 84A) in 130 games, but both had their seasons end prematurely due to injury.) Seguin is currently tied with Tavares with 11 points (5G, 6A).

“It’s no secret those guys are all elite, world-class players, all potential top-10 scorers,” Tavares said. “It’s just their size and their skating ability. They make plays at a high level being able to do a lot of different things and being they’re big, they’re strong on the puck.”

What makes Seguin and Benn such a devastating duo is their game-breaking ability. Last season, Seguin and Benn each individually scored three points or more seven times, including an 11-point combined effort against in a 7-3 win over Calgary on Nov. 14, 2013.

That trend has also continued into this season, as Seguin notched a hat trick, while Benn scored four points on Oct. 14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Stars attack doesn’t end there, as the team acquired former Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza over the summer. Spezza is making an impact in Dallas, scoring nine points (1G, 8A) in seven games.

“It’s not easy to be physical on them and take the puck from them because they enjoy the physical game,” Tavares said. “That’s kind of how they develop or create offense.”

The Islanders are looking to build a new winning streak tonight on the heels of their 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Frans Nielsen and Cal Clutterbuck each scored their first goals of the season, but Josh Bailey left the game with a broken hand and will not play tonight.

Mikhail Grabovski missed the Islanders last three games with a concussion, but participated in his first full practice with the team Friday. His status, along with defenseman Travis Hamonic (day-to-day, upper body) will be determined later today. 

Tonight is also Islanders Hockey Fights Cancer night at Nassau Coliseum. The players are using lavender stick tape while the coaches wear lavender ties to raise awareness for cancer. Fans are encouraged to wear lavender and donate in support of finding a cure.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
5-2-0 (10 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
2-1-0 home
Dallas Stars
4-1-2 (10 points - 2nd in Central Division, 5th in Western Conference)
3-1-0 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

Television:
MSG PLUS
Play-by-play: Howie
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Frans of all Trades (Oct. 24)
- Hockey Fights Cancer Night

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Lower Lobby 4:45 p.m.
- Doors 5:45 p.m.
- Hockey Fights Cancer Jerseys during Warm Ups
- Stadium Series Jersey
- National Grid Hometown Hero
Islanders player to watch
Frans Nielsen - Forward

The Islanders center scored his first goal of the season in Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Bruins and now has points in five of his last six contests. Last season, the Denmark native tallied a career-high 25 goals in 80 games and has five points (1G, 4A) on the season. Nielsen's true value is in his versatility, as plays on the Islanders top power-play and penalty kill units. His defensive skills will be put to the test against a skilled Stars offense.
Stars player to watch
Jason Spezza - Forward

Jason Spezza is centering Dallas’ top line between superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Spezza is off to a hot start, with nine points (1G, 8A) in seven games with his new team. The former Ottawa Senators captain is a slick passer (443 career assists) and a reliable producer, with 696 points in 693 career games. Spezza is riding a four-game point streak (1G, 7A) heading into tonight's action.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
89 Cory Conacher 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee 
29 Brock Nelson18 Ryan Strome
86 Nikolay Kulemin51 Frans Nielsen12 Josh Bailey
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
11 Lubomir Visnovsky
44 Calvin de Haan 37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Dallas Stars previous game lines
Forwards
14 Jamie Benn 90 Jason Spezza 91 Tyler Seguin
21 Antoine Roussel
20 Cody Eakin 16 Ryan Garbutt
72 Erik Cole
10 Shawn Horcoff 22 Colton Sceviour
18 Patrick Eaves
38 Vernon Fiddler 83 Ales Hemsky

Defensemen
33 Alex Goligoski
6 Trevor Daley
24 Jordie Benn
4 Brenden Dillon
2 Jyrki Jokipakka
5 Jamie Oleksiak

Goaltenders
32 Kari Lehtonen
29 Anders Lindback



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