Islanders (30-23-8) vs. Montreal (32-25-6)
(1:00 p.m. ET, TV: MSG | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) The Islanders will get their chance to jump into a playoff position when they take on the Montreal Canadiens today at the Nassau Coliseum on Mascot Day.
Unlike on Thursday when they downed the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were tied with them for ninth in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders will have an opportunity to control their own path at least temporarily into the playoff mix with a win tonight. The Islanders valiantly came from behind to defeat Toronto in a shootout, putting them one point ahead of the Leafs, but due to an unexpected turn of events throughout the rest of the league, the Islanders failed to gain any ground on the teams in playoff position.
All 11 of the Eastern Conference's top teams earned at least a point on Thursday due to each contest ending in overtime or a shootout. Teams six through eight at the time Tampa Bay, Montreal and Carolina all won their respective games, so the Islanders still find themselves two points out of seventh and one point out of eighth. But with Montreal occupying the seventh spot, the Islanders can draw even with them with a win in regulation.
Before the Islanders were looking ahead to Saturday's game against Montreal, they took care of business for the third time in four games on this seven-game home stand. Like the Islanders have been doing recently three times since the All-Star break they needed a third-period comeback to earn two points. They did just that against Montreal in a 4-2 win on February 3.
After falling behind 2-0, Trent Hunter scored the first of his two goals in the final minute of the second period with a deflection in front. He duplicated his tally with another deflection, while on the power play, late in the third to send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless, but exciting overtime, it came down to a shootout the fourth time this month for the Islanders. Ted Nolan once again pulled out his bag of tricks to gut out a shootout win. This time he slotted Randy Robitaille for the crucial third spot, and like Frans Nielsen did in Toronto earlier this month, Robitaille didn't disappoint, scoring the game-deciding goal. Rick DiPietro earned his 26th win of the season, stopping 27 shots.
Now the Islanders face a depleted, but still dangerous Montreal team. The Canadiens were rolling earlier in this season and on their way to challenging Buffalo for supremacy in the East, but a string of injuries halted that surge. Defenseman Craig Rivet, forwards Alexei Kovalev and Steve Begin as well as starting goaltender Cristobal Huet are on injured reserve, while Long Island-native Chris Higgins is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Despite all the injuries, Montreal is still hanging onto a playoff spot having defeated Western Conference powerhouse Nashville 6-5 in a shootout on Thursday. That was their third win in a row. Instead of relying on backup David Aebischer, it's been the rookie netminder from Slovakia, Jaroslav Halak, who has led them through this mini-streak having picked up three wins in his first three NHL starts.
Parents, today is the perfect day to catch exciting Islanders action with the kids. Sparky will be hosting mascots from around the NHL and Long Island. It's sure to be an unforgettable day.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen today on MSG.
For those of you not in the New York area, you can catch King and Mears' Bloomberg Radio broadcast on XM Satellite Radio, channel 207.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR MSG ON LONG ISLAND
Islanders 68 points, 3rd place, Atlantic Division
Montreal - 70 points, 3rd place, Northeast Division
Islanders Jason Blake, 28 goals, 51 points; Mike Sillinger, 26 assists; Brendan Witt, 107 PIM.
Montreal Sheldon Souray & Michael Ryder, 20 goals; Saku Koivu, 35 assists, 52 points; Souray, 115 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 15.7 percent. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent
Montreal - Power play: 22.4 percent. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent
Islanders Rick DiPietro (26-18-5, 2.63 GAA, .916 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-5-3, 2.90, .911)
Montreal David Aebischer (10-10-3, 2.94, .909); Jaroslav Halak (3-0-0, 3.26, .878)
Montreal: 4 pts Islanders: 2 pts.
February 3, 2007 at the Bell Centre: 4-2 Islanders win
Islanders 16-10-4 at home
Montreal 14-13-3 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
8 Bruno Gervais
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
44 Freddy Meyer
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
12 Chris Simon
15 Jeff Tambellini
18 Mike Sillinger
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
51 Frans Nielsen
81 Miroslav Satan
30 David Aebischer
41 Jaroslav Halak
6 Janne Niinimaa
8 Mike Komisarek
25 Mathieu Dandenault
32 Mark Streit
44 Sheldon Souray
51 Francis Bouillon
79 Andrei Markov
11 Saku Koivu
14 Radek Bonk
15 Sergei Samsonov
20 Mike Johnson
35 Tomas Plekanec
40 Maxim Lapierre
42 Alexander Perezhogin
46 Andrei Kostitsyn
47 Aaron Downey
57 Garth Murray
62 Duncan Milroy
73 Michael Ryder
84 Guillaume Latendresse