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Preview: Islanders at Jets

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (34-20-7) VS. WINNIPEG JETS  (26-32-4)

8 P.M. MTS CENTRE, MSG+, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM

FIVE THINGS:

1. ISLES VS JETS:

The New York Islanders road trip continues in Winnipeg on Thursday, as they face the struggling Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. 

It’s a matchup of two teams trending in different directions. At 4-1, the New York Islanders are assured to finish their seven-game road trip above .500 and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Jets have lost six of their last seven games, going 1-5-1 over that span. 

The Islanders beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on October 12, the team’s first win of the season. John Tavares led the way with a goal and two assists, while Thomas Greiss made 22 saves for his first win as an Islander. It was a nearly complete game for the Islanders, who scored a pair of power-play goals, outshot the Jets 44-24 and won 41-of-67 faceoffs (61%). 

While nothing is assured, especially against a feisty, physical team in a loud building, history is on the Islanders side, as they are 5-0-1 in their last six games in Manitoba.

2. ISLES NAMED TO THE WORLD CUP:

Four Islanders: John Tavares, Jaroslav Halak, Frans Nielsen and Nikolay Kulemin were named to rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday.

Tavares was named to Team Canada, Kulemin to Team Russia while Halak and Nielsen were named to Team Europe, which is made up of a collection of smaller hockey nations, including Slovakia and Denmark. All four players have international experience. Tavares leads the way with an Olympic gold medal and two gold medals at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Kulemin has five IIHF World Championship medals, including two golds, two silvers and a bronze. 

3. CIZIKAS STREAKS/DE HAAN RETURNS:

Casey Cizikas is riding a five-game point streak (2G, 3A), most recently assisting on Travis Hamonic’s first period goal on Tuesday. 

Cizikas’ five-game streak matches the longest streak of his career (Nov. 14-23, 2013) and he has nine points (3G, 6A) in his last nine games. 

Tuesday also marked the return of Calvin de Haan, who missed five games with a lower-body injury. De Haan led the Islanders with 25:46 TOI in his return, skating in a pairing with Travis Hamonic. 

4. JETS TRADE LADD:

The Jets made one of the bigger deals leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, shipping captain Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks for Marko Dano, a 2016 first-round pick and a conditional pick. 

Ladd was second on the Jets with 17 goals at the time of his trade and led the team in scoring three times: 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2014-15. The 30-year-old was in his fifth season as a Jet, but was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. His status as a pending UFA, combined with Winnipeg falling out of the playoff chase, prompted the Jets to make the move. 

Dano, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has yet to record a point in two games with the Jets. Dano had 21 points (8G, 13A) in 35 games for the Blue Jackets last season. He had two points (1G, 1A) in 13 games with Chicago. 

5. BYFUGLEIN/WHEELER:

The Jets’ struggles haven’t slowed Dustin Byfuglien, who is riding a six-game point streak (1G, 5A) and was named to Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday. The six-game streak gives Byfuglien 40 points (16G, 24A) this season, the fifth time he’s cracked 40 points with the franchise. As a reward for his steady offensive play, Byfuglien recently signed a five-year contract extension to remain a Jet. Known as “Big Buff” for his hulking 6’5, 250-pound frame, Byfuglien is the Jets most physical player, leading the team with 171 hits. He’s a freight train, but also leads the Jets in penalty minutes with 91, including a pair of penalties against the Islanders in Brooklyn.

Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 57 points (18G, 39A) in 62 games and is likely to break the 60-point barrier for the third straight season. The 29-year-old has been one of the most consistent Jets since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg, scoring 292 points in 351 games. On Wednesday afternoon, Wheeler was named to Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. 

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