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Preview: Islanders at Flames

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (32-19-7) VS. CALGARY FLAMES  (26-30-3)

9 P.M. SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME, MSG+2, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM

FIVE THINGS:

1. DOUSING THE FLAMES:

The Islanders are 1-0 vs. the Flames this season, beating Calgary 4-0 on Oct. 26 at Barclays Center. Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for his first shutout of the season, while Frans Nielsen (2G), Kyle Okposo (2A) and Nikolay Kulemin (2A) each had two points. Per The Skinny: The Isles have won three straight against Calgary, all with Halak in goal.  The Isles have outscored the Flames 8-2 in those three games. 

2. SPECIAL TEAMS: 

The Islanders special teams are thriving at the moment, as the team boasts the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill (87.2%) and have scored power-play goals in seven of their last nine games. 

Both special teams units were clicking on Tuesday, as the Islanders’ power play went 2-for-3 while the penalty kill went 5-for-5. The Isles are 21-5-3 when they score at least one power play goal and 24-10-5 when they do not allow one.

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Calgary’s special teams are at the other end of the spectrum. The Flames penalty kill is 30th in the NHL at 73.2%, while power play (16%) is 29th in the league. Calgary’s power play is performing better than its rank of late, scoring in six of the team’s last eight games (8-for-32). The same can’t be said for the PK, which has allowed goals in seven of eight games, only killing off 22-of-36 penalties (61%) over that span. 

3. TAVARES ON TOP:

John Tavares is back in familiar territory – the top of the Islanders’ scoring lead. Tavares leads the Islanders with 23 goals and 49 points, netting a goal and an assist vs. the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. The Islanders’ captain has points in eight of his last nine games – 13 points over that span – including a season-high, seven-game point streak. Tavares scored both goals in the Islanders last trip to Calgary, a 2-1 win on Jan. 2, 2015. The career-Islander has 197 goals since joining the league, three shy of 200. 

4. GAUDREAU STREAKING:

The Calgary Flames have hit a rough patch, losing two in a row and five of their last six games. That hasn’t stopped Johnny Gaudreau, who is riding a five-game point streak (1G, 6A). Gaudreau, the Flames’ leading scorer, has completely bypassed the supposed sophomore slump, with 58 points (22G, 36A) in 58 games. The 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner – for college hockey’s (sorry, cawlidge hockey’s) top player – is likely going to surpass his rookie totals of 24 goals, 40 assists and 64 points. 

5. HALAK VS. ORTIO:

Jaroslav Halak will start in goal Thursday. The Islanders’ goaltender has won two straight games, stopping 54-of-55 shots in the process. Jack Capuano said he factors past performance into his goalie decisions, and Halak has won three straight games vs. Calgary, including a 29-save shutout in October. 

Joni Ortio will man the crease for Calgary on Thursday. Ortio is coming off a strong game, stopping 35-of-37 shots against the LA Kings on Tuesday.

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