Two former Islanders, Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreiter, return to Nassau Coliseum tonight, when the Islanders host the Minnesota Wild.
Moulson, a three-time 30-goal scorer for the Islanders, and Niederreiter, the fifth-overall pick in 2010, were both dealt by the team over the past year. Moulson was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 27 as part of a package for Thomas Vanek, while Niederreiter was traded in the offseason for Cal Clutterbuck.
The Islanders beat the Wild 5-4 in a thrilling comeback win on December 29, setting up what should be an exciting tilt tonight at the Coliseum.
Ahead of tonight’s game, both teams held an optional morning skate. Here are some news, notes and quotes from today’s skate.
Czuczman: Kevin Czuczman will make his NHL debut tonight. The Islanders signed Czuczman out of Lake Superior State on March 11, but wanted the NCAA free agent to practice with the team for a few days before he made his debut. Czuczman will likely be paired with Travis Hamonic.
Czuczman: It’s been a lifelong dream of mine… [Seeing the crowd out there] will be that wow moment. It’ll be a pretty awesome experience and I can’t wait.
Nilsson Starts: Anders Nilsson will make his second straight start for the Islanders. Nilsson is coming off a 33-save win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Clutterbuck vs. Wild II: Cal Clutterbuck is set to face his former team for the second time tonight. Clutterbuck spent six seasons with the Wild before being dealt to the Islanders over the summer. The Welland, ON, native scored a goal in his return to Minnesota earlier this season.
Clutterbuck: It’s weird [facing your former team]. You have a lot of good friends and teammates that you’ve battled with for a long time, but now you are forced to go up against them. It kind of goes against your instincts to do so, but I’ve been here long enough now that obviously these guys are my team, my teammates and my family. After the warm-ups and the first five minutes it’ll be business as usual.
Top Line: The Islanders new-look top line - Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Anders Lee - have combined for 17 points (6G, 11A) in three games.
Getting Wild: The Islanders have won four straight games against the Minnesota Wild.
Okposo: Kyle Okposo was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday. Okposo had seven points (1G, 6A) in three games last week and is on a four-game point streak (2G, 6A).
Nielsen: Frans Nielsen has goals in three straight games.
Moulson Returns: Matt Moulson addressed the media at Minnesota’s morning skate, reflecting on his career on Long Island, as well as discussing his season with the Sabres and Wild.
Moulson: I met a lot of great people, great teammates and great fans. I have a lot of good memories I think and I made some friends I’ll keep forever.
I have other friends in the league but tonight will be more special. When I get out there it will be a little weird, but once you are in the game... you forget about it.
Playoff Race: The Wild are currently seventh in the Western Conference playoff picture. They are three points ahead of eighth-placed Phoenix.
New Goalies: Josh Harding and Nicklas Backstrom, the Wild’s goaltending tandem in October, are both sidelined with injuries. Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov are currently Minnesota’s puck-stopping pair. Bryzgalov is the likely starter tonight, as Kuemper played Monday night in Boston.
Team Leaders: Jason Pominville leads the Wild in goals (26) and points (48). Zach Parise is second in both categories with 23 goals and 21 assists.