The New York Islanders take on the Montreal Canadiens at NYCB Live - Nassau Coliseum. Buy tickets. Watch on MSG+, MSG GO or NHL.TV. Listen live on 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM LI News or online at radio.com/islanders. Read the game preview. Check the game notes.
Thomas Greiss is expected to start between the pipes tonight for the Islanders, marking his fourth straight. Robin Lehner will back Greiss up in his return to the lineup after missing three straight games with an upper-body injury.
Johnny Boychuk will remain out of the lineup after sustaining an upper-body injury against Philadelphia on Saturday. Per coach Barry Trotz, the defenseman has made progress and skated on his own for the first time this morning.
ISLES LOOKING TO HALT HABS PLAYOFF HOPES:
Montreal enters Thursday's game off of a 3-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday night. Goaltender Carey Price made franchise history as he recorded his 315th career win with 21 saves on 22 shots, passing Jacques Plante. Max Domi scored twice and Brett Kulak scored once to clinch the division victory.
"They're very quick," Trotz said in his pre-game assessment on Montreal. "They really attack the net. They're very quick in transition… They're going to get up ice and create some offense. Then, they've got [goaltender] Carey Price who's all-world. They're a good hockey team."
The Canadiens (81 points) are currently tied for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, but find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in. A win tonight for Montreal would further tighten the race for the wild card spot with Columbus (81 points) and Carolina (83 points).
"You've got some desperate teams coming in," Ryan Pulock said. "They're fighting for their life. We're fighting to get points here. It's going to be a good game. They bring some speed. They've got some skill. We better be prepared to bring a 60-minute effort."
While the Islanders are cognizant of Montreal's desperation and the growing magnitude with each game, they're committed to focusing on themselves and how to best poise themselves come playoffs.
"This time of year you want to raise your level not based on the opponent, but you want to raise your level based on yourself," Trotz said. "You want to raise your battle level. The trick is that you want to raise your battle level from now until the end of the night. If you do that then you're ready for playoffs. We've got to get into that mode where we're raising our game."
The playoff implications continue to escalate with every passing game. A Islanders win tonight - coupled with a Washington Capitals loss - would tie the Islanders (87 points) for first place in the Metropolitan Division and broaden the gap between a lingering Pittsburgh (85 points). The Islanders are 3-1-0 through their last four games and look to close out a stretch of eight-of-nine games at NYCB Live with a win before travelling for back-to-back road games on Saturday and Sunday at Detroit and Minnesota.
Video: Morning Skate Update 3/14: Anders Lee
ISLES LOOKING TO JUMPSTART POWER PLAY:
The Islanders power play is in the midst of a drought entering Thursday's contest.
The power play is 0-for-20 over the past nine games, a slump they're looking to bust against the Canadiens, who boast the 16th-ranked penalty kill in the NHL at 80.4%. Over the past 10 games, the Canadiens have killed off 24-of-28 penalties (85.7%).
"We just have to work with what we have and they just have to get it done, plain and simple," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "That's a part of our game that we need to be better at. It needs to help us win games. It's gone through a bit of a dry patch right now."
The Islanders made a switch to their power-play units on Monday, moving Devon Toews into Nick Leddy's spot on the first unit. Trotz said he was just looking to shake things to see if he could "find a little lightning in a bottle."
The coach added that he's opted to keep Ryan Pulock with the second unit - which features two defensemen - so he can play him at the top of the circle and look for one-timers with a left-handed defenseman feeding him from the point. Pulock said the Isles have been getting chances and just need to break through.
"Sometimes we have some pretty good movement and control the puck, but don't always get pucks into high-scoring areas," Pulock said. "So I think that's a big key will be to simplify a little bit, continue with the puck movement, but when we get that chance, try to get some pucks on net and try to get some bodies there and hopefully outbattle and win some of those loose pucks."
Power-play opportunities become scarcer as the season goes along, so the Isles know how important it is to get the man advantage back on track.
"They become huge," Pulock added. "It seems might get one or two chances a night and those chances are crucial. Games are so tight and if you can win that special teams battle it gives you a better chance to win."
CANADIENS LINEUP NOTES:
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Paul Byron - Max Domi - Andrew Shaw
Jonathan Drouin - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Jordan Weal
Artturi Lehkonen - Nate Thompson - Joel Armia
Victor Mete - Shea Weber
Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn - Christian Folin