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New York Islanders vs. Chicago Blackhawks

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Team Record: 9-11-5

Last Game: 5-1 W vs. TBL
Season Series: 0-0-1 of 2
Team Record: 16-8-4
Last Game: 4-3 SOL vs. PHX
Season Series: 1-0-0 of 2
John Tavares
The Islanders third-year forward has been doing everything right, starting with all the little things. He’s been making critical plays through the neutral zone, feeding his linemates with smart passes, staying strong on the puck and winning 53.1 percent of all faceoffs he’s taken.

"When he’s on the ice, he makes his line mates better. There’s no question," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. "For me it’s about his work ethic, his play away from the puck. It starts in the D-zone coverage and his ability to play structured position which enables him to get the puck and move it through the neutral zone and make plays in the offensive zone."

But all of that doesn’t amount for goals. After scoring eight goals in the first 11 games of the season, 21-year-old Tavares went a through stretch of 13 games without notching a goal.

"He’s had a lot of chances the last couple weeks," Capuano said. "It was nice to see him (Tuesday) night, he got a chance in the high slot and ended up scoring a goal, but he’s had plenty of those. I think that getting that goal gave him confidence."

As Capuano said, Tavares finally connected off a pass from Matt Moulson for his ninth goal of the 2011-12 season on Tuesday night, a goal which tied the score with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the Isles went on to win 5-1.

"I’ve been getting a lot of chances and team’s been playing a lot better so that’s been great," Tavares said. "I know that I have to capitalize on my chances and score on my opportunities, but it’s nice to kind of get out of it and just working hard and move forward now."
NHL Scoring Leaders
Chicago's Captain Jonathan Toews is a dangerous offensive player. Playing agains the Isles just seven days ago, he scored a goal in the game and notched the lone shootout goal for the Blackhawks victory. Since their last meeting, Toews has scored three goals and two assists for five points in two games.

But he's not the only dangerous player in the Hawks lineup, the Chicago-based club has scored eight goals in two games to maintain the league lead in goals scored, topping off at 93.

"We played a pretty good game against them last week," Islanders Captain Mark Streit said. "Unfortunately, we only got one point, but I think in their building it was quite an accomplishment. They have so many offensive weapons that can hurt you in different ways. They have a well balanced team and its going to be a big challenge for us. I think most of those things you have to put aside and make sure we play how we play. We have a pretty good team and we can hold them, but we really need to play on top of our game."

With Chicago's offensive threat, Streit knows the entire team will have to play well defensively, not just the six guys on the blue line.

"You have to play really well defensively and be aware of all five guys because their D jumps into the play. It happened in the last game we played them. All five guys have to play well defensively."
With a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, the Islanders have successfully extended their hot road streak into their three-game homestand. But the next two games at home will be a challenge as the Islanders are set to face the Western Conference leading Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, for the second time in seven days, followed by the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

“They are one of the best teams in the league,” Islanders center John Tavares said. “They have a lot of talent, a lot of guys that are great players. They’ve had a lot of success and it’s a great challenge for us to avenge the loss that we had. It’s definitely pretty easy to remember how they like to play and their style. It’s a great challenge for us and hopefully we can rise to that challenge.”

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with his team’s effort in the 5-4 shootout loss to Chicago last Friday.

However, he saw some areas the team would benefit from tightening up their game, including having a better awareness of players in the defensive zone, improved tracking of their man and picking up those second wave of attackers who join off the rush.

“There are no easy nights in the NHL,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Chicago is a skilled team, they have some forwards that are really skilled and they got some defenseman on the back end that do the same things. We have to go into the game and continue to play like we’ve just played against New Jersey, Buffalo, Dallas and Chicago.”
Led by red-hot captain Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks are atop the Central Division with one of the league's best records and most potent offenses.

About the only problem facing the team is the play of No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford, who will be watching from the bench Thursday night when Chicago meets the surging New York Islanders for the second time in a week.

Crawford established himself as the Blackhawks' top goaltender last season, going 33-18-6 with a 2.30 goals-against average while outperforming veteran Marty Turco.

Hoping to join the NHL's elite in 2011-12, Crawford has instead taken a step back with a 3.00 GAA that ranks 35th in the league. He was pulled for the second time in three appearances Monday after allowing three goals on 16 shots in a 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix. (Continue Reading)

The Islanders and Blackhawks last met at the United Center in Chicago eight days ago. Kyle Okposo scored the first goal, but Andrew Brunette evened the score before Matt Moulson scored to end the first period with the Isles in the lead, 2-1. Brett Smith and Jonathan Toews scored in the second period to lift the Hawks ahead 3-2, but a power play goal from PA Parenteau evened the score just 46 seconds into the third period. Patrick Sharp scored to give Chicago their second lead, but Nino Niederreiter scored his first goal of the season to even the score and force the extra session. Overtime remained scoreless and Jonathan Toews scored the only goal in the shootout to propell the Hawks to a 5-4 win. Isles goaltender Al Montoya made 32 saves.
Date of
Games Missed Prognosis
DiPietro 12/03 Groin strain 1 No timetable
Eaton 11/21 Knee 7 6 weeks
Grabner 12/03 Groin strain 1 day-to-day
Katic 9/24 Shoulder 25 out indef.
MacDonald 11/29 Right leg 3 2-4 weeks
Nabokov 11/17 Groin 9 out indef.
Niederreiter 12/03 Concussion 1 No timetable
Pandolfo 11/26 Broken foot 4 4-6 weeks
Power Play %: 18.8%
Penalty Kill %: 81.8%
Home Record: 6-6-2
Road Record: 3-5-3
Goals For: 57
Goals Against: 79
Power Play %: 19.0%
Penalty Kill %: 75.3%
Home Record: 8-2-3
Road Record: 8-6-1
Goals For: 93
Goals Against: 88
(Answer from 12/06: John Tavares. Tavares matched his own point total in one period.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said that Al Montoya is in net, Kevin Poulin will back up, the D will stay the same while forward lines may change. The status of Michael Grabner is undetermined.

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

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

Crawford, Emery

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano on playing the kids from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers: "It’s a great credit to our coaches in Bridgeport. The one thing we told them when we broke camp was that, structurally we play a little bit different of a system, sometimes the same, but we need these guys to be in the condition to play in the NHL because the guys here are bigger and stronger. They've come up, were well conditioned. I thought (Micheal) Haley’s done a good job, Dylan’s (Reese) done a good job. Wally (Wallace) played good last night, credit to those guys, but we got some depth in the organization and as you know, we aren’t afraid to play those kids in Bridgeport. We aren’t afraid to give those guys minutes. They stepped in and they’ve all played hard and they’ve given us what they’ve got."

Capuano on the combination of David Ullstrom-Josh Bailey-Tim Wallace:
"I liked it. David and Josh are guys that see the ice really well and Wally’s (Wallace) a guy that gets in there and establishes the forecheck. He’s not afraid to finish his checks and create some space for those guys. I thought that line played well and that’s what we are going to need if we are going to be successful. We just cant have Johnny (Tavares), Mouls (Moulson) and PA (Parenteau) doing all the scoring. We are going to need secondary scoring right now, hopefully that continues. "

Cory Wright contributed to this report
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