NEW YORK ISLANDERS (26-17-6) VS. DETROIT RED WINGS (25-18-8)
2 P.M. JOE LOUIS ARENA, MSG+2, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. BOYCHUK ACTIVATED, WILL PLAY VS. RED WINGS
Johnny Boychuk will return to the Islanders’ lineup on Saturday afternoon in Detroit.
After missing 11 games with an upper-body injury, Boychuk was activated off injured reserve Saturday ahead of the Islanders matinee with the Detroit Red Wings. Boychuk will play with Nick Leddy, while Brian Strait comes out of the lineup.
Scott Mayfield was returned on loan to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to clear room on the roster for Boychuk.
Boychuk, who suffered an upper-body injury on New Year’s Eve in Buffalo, had been practicing with the Islanders since before the All-Star Break. Jack Capuano said given the physical nature of Boychuk’s game, he wanted to make sure his defenseman was 100% before inserting him back into the lineup.
The Islanders were 5-5-1 without Boychuk, who had 14 points (3G, 11A) in 38 games this season. Jaroslav Halak will start in goal for the Islanders on Saturday.
2. ISLES SEEING RED:
The Islanders are looking to exact some revenge on the Red Wings after suffering a 4-2 loss on Jan. 25 at Barclays Center. The Islanders – who have 10 wins when allowing the first goal – were playing catch up all night in that contest, admittedly coming out sluggish in the first period. They made a furious push in the third, but an empty-netter sealed a Wings victory.
“They are a fast team,” Jack Capuano said. “Going back and watching the last time we played them, they have some forwards up front that are pretty quick and they are a puck possession-type team. That first period was what it was.”
Capuano said he’s seen a lot of improvement from the Islanders in the two games since.
“These last six periods against Minnesota and Washington is the best hockey we’ve played in a long time,” he said. “We have to play with a little swagger, confidence and poise in our game and we have to continue to play that way.”
3. GRABOVSKI GETTING AT IT:
Mikhail Grabovski is getting hot, with five points (3G, 2A) in his last four games. With the Islanders’ first goal on Thursday night in Washington, Grabovski extended his goal-scoring streak to three games, while also extending his point streak to four.
The center-turned-winger has found his offensive game playing alongside John Tavares and Ryan Strome, a change Jack Capuano made on Jan. 12. Tavares has seven points (2G, 5A) in the seven games since playing with Grabovski.
4. LARKIN RISING FAST:
Dylan Larkin is having a fantastic rookie season with the Red Wings, leading the team in goals (17) and points (35). If the league didn’t know about the 19-year-old from Waterford, Mich., they did after the NHL All-Star Game. Larkin won the Fastest Skater contest at the NHL Skills Competition, ripping around the rink in 13.172 seconds, breaking Mike Gartner’s record that had stood for two decades. Larkin is one of the fastest skaters in the game and will need to be contained on Sunday. The Islanders held him to one assist in their last game. Larkin is coming off a two-goal outing against the Florida Panthers.
5. MARTIN'S HOMECOMING:
Windsor, ON, native Matt Martin grew up across the river from Detroit, so games at Joe Louis Arena are always a homecoming for the Islanders’ winger. Martin – the NHL’s hits leader for four straight seasons – has five points against the Red Wings, tying his highest total against any team (Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay). The physical winger is on his best behavior against the Wings too; his two penalty minutes tying his lowest mark against any NHL team (Chicago, San Jose).