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New York Islanders @ Chicago Blackhawks

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Team Record: 7-11-4

Last Game: 2-1 W @ BUF
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 2
Team Record: 14-8-3
Last Game: 4-1 L vs. PHX
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 2
Dylan Reese
It was the Pittsburgh native’s overall play that caught management’s eye when the Islanders needed their first defensive call-up of the 2011-12 season. At the time of his recall, the fifth-year pro led all Sound Tigers defensemen in scoring with two goals and 10 assists for 12 points and an even plus-minus rating.

“When the phone rings, you have to be the best player and Dylan was playing the best hockey as far as the D go,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “It was a close race between a couple guys, but (Dylan is) the guy that Brent Thompson recommended.”

Reese played 27 games for the Islanders last season, recording a career-high six points (6 assists) and was one of the last players cut from 2011 training camp.

“I’ve been up and down a lot over the last two years, so the nerves aren’t there like they used to be,” Reese said. “I’m happy that we got this practice in because it’s been a couple times where I came in and went right into a game and the speed is a lot different, so it was good to get the practice in.”
Patrick Sharp
The Blackhawks forward has had a great start to the 2011-12 season. His 24 points (11 goals, 12 assists) are good for fourth on the team, while his +10 rating is tied for the team lead.

Sharp scored the only goal in the Hawks 4-1 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday night and recorded a hat trick in the Hawks 6-5 win over the Ducks a week ago. If he continues at this pace, the 10-year pro could put up career numbers.

Jonathan Toews
Averaging a point-per-game (13 goals, 12 assists for 25 points), the Blackhawks Captain is on his way to earning career-high numbers. His 13 goals are tied for fifth in the league's standings. And though he didn't find the net in the Hawks' last game, Toews put up three goals and three assists in the last three games.
With back-to-back games against two tough Western Conference teams this weekend, Head Coach Jack Capuano stressed that his team needs to continue to play a sound defensive game if they want to prolong their success on the road.

“We are going to have to be on top of our game and hopefully we can play with that attitude that we need,” Capuano said. “(In our last two games), I thought we did a better job of getting pucks to the net and playing sound defensively. To me, it’s the intangibles and the little things that are going to add up to the big things.”

Chicago, leads the Western Conference with 80 goals scored in their first 24 games, averaging 3.33 goals scored per game. Jonathan Toews is tied for fifth in the league with 13 goals, while Patrick Kane is tied for sixth in the league with 17 assists.

“They (the Blackhawks) obviously have a lot of great players and a good team, but I think we have to be doing what we’ve been doing,” Josh Bailey said before boarding the plane. “The biggest key is to stay disciplined. Chicago has a great power play and some great skill guys. So we must play well 5-on-5 and play strong defensively.”

Breakouts start with control of the puck gained in the defensive zone or a neutral zone trap, so continuing to play well in their own end of the ice will only lead to better transitions up ice, creating more offensive chances.

“The one thing that we have really tried to stress over the last three weeks is our breakouts and our execution and making sure that our D have poise with the puck,” Capuano said. “We don’t just want to go back there and throw it away. We want to make a high percentage play all the time.”

The team’s good defensive play has led to less quality scoring opportunities for the Islanders’ opponents, which is a big reason why they only allowed one goal in Tuesday’s win over the Buffalo Sabres.

“We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on D-zone play and tried to really play sounder down low especially and keep things to the outside,” Bailey said. “The best defensive teams don’t let teams get to the inside, they force them out and I think we’ve done a good job of that the last little while. We just have to try to keep moving forward.”
Season Series: Friday marks the first of two meetings in the next seven days between the Islanders and Blackhawks. Chicago won 5-0 on Jan. 9 at United Center in the only meeting with New York last season, snapping a six-game losing skid against the Isles.

Big Story: The Blackhawks hope to bounce back from a 4-1 home loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday when they welcome the Islanders to United Center for an interconference matchup. New York has the lowest point total in the Eastern Conference, but is coming off its first two road wins of the season, on Saturday in New Jersey and Tuesday in Buffalo. The Isles seek their first three-game win streak since capturing three straight from Oct. 10-15.

Team Scope:
New York had lost 14 of 16 games heading into its current four-game road trip, but suddenly finds itself with two consecutive wins away from Nassau Coliseum. While the Isles' 30th-ranked offense has shown signs of improvement with five goals in the two victories, Al Montoya has been the key to the wins.

After Montoya's 24-save effort willed the Isles to their first road win of 2011-12 on Saturday against the Devils, he held the Sabres at bay during a crucial 5-on-3 situation late in the third period of Tuesday's 2-1 win.

"Al gave us a chance and we showed some desperation there," coach Jack Capuano said. "I think we've played with a little bit of an attitude that we maybe didn't have the first couple weeks of the season." (Continue Reading)

The Blackhawks shut out the Islanders 5-0 the last time these teams played at United Center. Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored the Blackhawks first three goals before the game’s midway mark and each had multi-point nights. Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson added Chicago’s final two goals before the end of the second period. Corey Crawford made 29 saves for the shutout while Nathan Lawson turned aside 40 of 45.
- By Cory Wright
- Mark Katic - Shoulder (9/24 vs. NJ) - 22 games missed (Out indefinitely)

- Evgeni Nabokov - Groin (11/17) - 6 games missed (Out indefinitely)

- Mark Eaton - Knee (11/21) - 4 games missed (6 weeks)

- Jay Pandolfo - Broken foot (11/26) - 1 games missed (Out 4-6 weeks)
Power Play %: 15.3%
Penalty Kill %: 81.0%
Home Record: 5-6-2
Road Record: 2-5-2
Goals For: 43
Goals Against: 69
Power Play %: 16.8%
Penalty Kill %: 74.7%
Home Record: 7-2-2
Road Record: 7-6-1
Goals For: 80
Goals Against: 78
(Answer from 11/29: Dave Scatchard. Scatchard scored 1:01 into the 2002-03 season against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 10, 2002. Future Islanders goalie Martin Biron would make no mistake after that, as the Sabres would win 5-1.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said Al Montoya gets the start, Rick DiPietro backs up, Micheal Haley is the healthy scratch and Andrew MacDonald is a game-time decision.

Blackhawks (Expected) Lineups
Forwards: Stalberg-Toews-Kane, Sharp-Kruger-Hossa, Bickell-Bolland-Frolik, Carcillo-Mayers-Brunette

Keith-Seabrook, Hjalmarsson-Leddy, O'Donnell-Montador

Crawford, Emery

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano: "(The Blackhawks) have four or five guys that can really go. We have to do a better job of making sure that in-D zone coverage, that our weak side forward has an awareness of the defenseman jumping in back door. It happened in Buffalo a couple times, where we lost coverage. Now we know that their three or four defenseman are going to join. They are going to come and come hard. We just have to make sure that we are above the puck. It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to play a certain way. Maybe we don’t score four or five (goals) a night, but we have to play sound defensively."

Cory Wright contributed to this report
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