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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Thrashers

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
After a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Islanders had one day of practice in between games before facing the Atlanta Thrashers for the second time this season. Saturday night’s matchup will be the first time the teams meet at Nassau Coliseum.

“Last night’s game, with the exception of the first 10 minutes, we came out hard,” said Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano. “I thought we played extremely well. We sacrificed our bodies. We put a good amount of pucks on (Tuukka) Rask and I thought our power play did a good job. We had our looks. There was a good amount of scoring chances for us. Hopefully somehow someway we’re going to turn on the red light sooner or later.”

While the Islanders lost by a three-goal deficit, the Bruins final two goals were scored on an empty net because the Islanders were trying to use their momentum to tie the score at three.

Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson gave his perspective on Thursday’s game, watching from the bench, he said, “Guys are blocking shots and doing the little things to win a hockey game. I don’t think the score is indicative of how they played. Especially the second and the third, I thought we dominated the game, that’s for sure.”

Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins watches the loose puck against the New York Islanders at the TD Garden on December 9, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
If the Islanders play the Thrashers on Saturday with the same heart they had in Boston, there’s a good chance they will come out of the matchup with the victory. The Islanders have a good all-time record against the Thrashers as they have recorded 22-14-5 and are 11-9-0 at home.

“If we play that way we’re going to win a lot of games,” Roloson said. “We just have to have the mindset and the confidence to stay with the program and do what it takes to win hockey games. We all know what it takes. We just have to stay on that plan.”

In the first meeting between the Islanders and Thrashers this season, the Islanders forced overtime at Philips Arena as they held on to the tie score through the end of regulation with Michael Grabner’s lone goal. But the Thrashers took the two points on Nov. 21, 2010 as Dustin Byfuglien netted the game-winner past Rick DiPietro in overtime for a 2-1 decision.

“They’re a good team,” Grabner said. “They have a lot of young skilled players. It’s going to be a tough game, like every game so far, but I think if we bring the same intensity as the last couple periods in yesterday’s games then we’ll do fine.”

In that first game this season, Nik Antropov scored the Thrashers game-tying goal on the power play. That’s definitely something the Islanders are going to have to watch out for, as the Thrashers rank second in the League in power play percentage with 24.8 (28.0 on the road). Keeping out of the penalty box and staying strong on the penalty kill will be an important key to success.

Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders scores a goal against Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on November 21, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)
“When you look at Atlanta, and it’s funny because we were just looking at their local newspaper, they had the worst power play in the League last year,” Capuano said. “Just listening to their coaches, I think every coach says the same thing. Their motto is just shoot the puck, get pucks on net with traffic – and the last couple of games we’ve been doing that. I have a good feeling in the next couple of games with our power play, because if we have that movement and the looks that we have, the puck is going to go in for us.”

Whether Roloson or DiPietro get the nod from Capuano on Saturday, they know that facing the Thrashers will be a challenge. The Thrashers won the first meeting this season, but the Islanders won three out of four meetings with the club last season as Roloson played between the pipes for all three of the Islanders wins, even recording a 6-5 shootout victory on January 2, 2010.

Despite the team’s recent losses, Roloson still has confidence in the team in front of them.

“The Thrashers are a good hockey club,” Roloson said. “I think they’re number two in the League on the power play right now. Hopefully we stay out of the box and play like we did last game. If we play like we did last game, we’re going to win.”
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