NEW YORK ISLANDERS (18-10-5) VS. ARIZONA COYOTES (14-15-2)
9 P.M. GILA RIVER ARENA, MSG+2, CHANNEL FINDER, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. KYLE OKPOSO OUT TWO GAMES:
Kyle Okposo will miss the Islanders next two games with a lower-body injury. Head coach Jack Capuano said it’s a nagging injury and the objective is to rest the Islanders’ star. Okposo leads the Islanders with 26 points (8G, 18A) this season.
Steve Bernier draws into the lineup in place of Okposo. Starting goalies and projected lines are available in the Islanders Day-to-Day blog.
2. JOHN TAVARES LOOKING TO BUST OUT:
As the New York Islanders head to the desert, John Tavares is looking to find himself.
The Islanders’ captain is in a slump, with one point – a goal – in his last seven games. Tavares hasn’t had a multi-point game in over a month since a three-point effort against Arizona on Nov. 16, so Saturday’s matchup offers a chance to get back on track. To boot, the Coyotes have allowed four or more goals in seven of their last eight games. Tavares’ dip in production hasn’t hurt the Islanders, who are 4-2-1 over the past seven games and deserved at least a point in a 2-1 loss to Colorado on Thursday. The Islanders’ offense has also stalled over the past two games, and an offensive breakout for Tavares would go a long way to fixing that.
3. BROCK NELSON STREAKING:
Brock Nelson has scored both Islanders goals over the past two games. While the low goal total isn’t good for the team, Nelson’s personal streak is a plus. Nelson has points in three straight and in four of his last five games. He’s third in goals (11) and fourth in points (19) this season.
4. LAST TIME OUT - ISLES 5, YOTES 2:
The Islanders scored four third-period goals en route to a 5-2 win over the Coyotes on Nov. 16 at Barclays Center. Tavares led the way with two goals and an assist, as the Islanders won their third straight game over the Coyotes. The Islanders also won their last visit to Arizona, as Frans Nielsen’s late goal and a Jaroslav Halak shutout powered the Isles to a 1-0 win. A win Saturday would give the Islanders back-to-back season sweeps over the Coyotes.
5. ANDERS LINDBACK:
UPDATE: Louis Dimingue will start for the Coyotes.
With Mike Smith out for eight-to-10 weeks (core muscle surgery), Anders Lindback has assumed starting duties in Arizona. Smith was 10-9-1 with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage prior to his injury. Lindback is 4-5-1 with a 3.14 GAA and a .891 SV%, those numbers taking a hit after a 7-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday where he allowed four goals on 10 shots. At 6’6, 215 lbs., size is one of Lindback’s biggest strengths, but head coach Dave Tippett said he expects more from him and backup Louis Domingue.
6. WINTER IN THE DESERT:
Between a 1-6-1 record and news of a lengthy injury to their starting goalie, December has not been kind to the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have allowed four or more goals in all of their losses this month, so keeping the puck out of the net has been a problem of late. Arizona’s recent skid has dropped the Coyotes to fourth place in the Pacific Division and while they are only one point behind the Calgary Flames, the Flames have won seven straight. The ‘Yotes still have some good, young offensive players in Max Domi (10G, 15A) and Anthony Duclair (10G, 8A), as well as one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so Saturday’s contest is by no means a “gimme.”