NEW YORK ISLANDERS (24-15-5) VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS (18-17-10)
4 P.M. BARCLAYS CENTER, MSG+, CHANNEL FINDER, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. BROCK AND ROLL:
Brock Nelson is putting the puck in the net for the Islanders. Nelson scored his fourth goal in two games, netting the Islanders’ tying goal against the New York Rangers on Thursday night after scoring a hat trick against Columbus on Tuesday. The four-goal week has surged Nelson to the top of the Islanders’ goal-scoring lead, as his 18 pace the team. In the past, the 6’3 center had scored more goals around the net, but Nelson is showing that he can score off the rush and has beaten goalies cleanly in each of the past two games.
“The one thing that he’s really worked on has been not only his shot, but his release,” Capuano said. “You watch every day in practice and at the end of practice as well, just continuously repping that out and it’s paying dividends for him. He’s getting the release off and getting pucks to the net. He’s got a heavy shot and we’re starting to see more and more of that.”
2. ISLES VS. THE WEST:
Playing the Western Conference hasn’t been an issue for the Islanders this season, as they hold a 12-4-1 record against the West. Subtract the Islanders two losses to the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and they are 12-3-0 against the rest of the west.
The Canucks threaten to throw a wrench into the Islanders western dominance, as Vancouver swept the season series last year. The last Islanders win over the Canucks featured a thrilling seven-goal third period, as they overcame a 3-0 deficit for a 7-4 win.
3. SPARKY AT BARCLAYS:
Sparky the Dragon will be in attendance as the Islanders play the Canucks. The Islanders will also be wearing their black-and-white Brooklyn-themed alternate jerseys.
4. WHALE WATCHING:
The Canucks are 3-1-1 in their last five games, scoring a pair of wins over the Carolina Hurricanes as well as halting the Florida Panthers’ 12-game winning streak on Jan. 11.
The Canucks are 18-17-10, tied with the San Jose Sharks for third in the Pacific Division, but their position isn’t stable, as the Sharks have three games in hand on Vancouver, while the Anaheim Ducks have two games in hand and are one point back.
5. THE SEDIN TWINS:
The Sedin twins are back to being consistent point producers for the Canucks under head coach Willie Desjardins, after taking a big hit statistically under John Tortorella two seasons ago. The Sedin’s strength is their cycle game and their ability to pass and possess the puck to each other is unparalleled in the NHL. The identical twins have a knack for finding each other on the ice and are usually in on each other’s goals. That’s why the Sedins have been number one and two in Canucks scoring every year since the 2006-07 season. This season is no exception.
“They have a new coach, but they are a skilled team,” Jack Capuano said. “We’ll have to be ready because any time you have a skill team like that with some of the guys they have, you have to be disciplined, you have to stay out of the box. Those guys are really effective on their power play.”
Daniel is the better scorer and leads the Canucks with 19 goals in 45 games, one shy of his total from last season. The former 40-goal scorer is on pace to score his most goals since the 2011-12 season, when he netted 30 in 72 games. Daniel (346 goals) is one goal shy of passing Markus Naslund as the Canucks all-time leading goal scorer.
Henrik is the set-up man, his 732 career assists the most in Canucks history by a healthy margin (Daniel is second with 575). Henrik also leads the Canucks with 952 points and with 37 points this season, is continuing to produce at a high pace.
6. HORVAT LEADS YOUTH MOVEMENT:
Alas, the Canucks are preparing for life-after Sedins, giving youngsters Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann a chance to learn and grow in the NHL. Horvat, the 20-year-old center acquired in the Cory Schneider trade, is fifth in team scoring with 19 points (8G, 11A). Horvat is red-hot, riding a six-game point streak (6G, 3A) and is likely going to surpass his rookie totals of 13 goals and 25 points.
“They’ve got some young guys who are pretty skilled,” Brock Nelson said. “Horvat has scored a couple of goals, including the winner [against Carolina on Friday]. They have a lot of speed and play hard.”
Virtanen and McCann – picked 6th and 24th in the 2014 draft, respectively – are also gaining valuable NHL experience. Virtanen has one goal in four games since returning from the World Junior Hockey Championship, while McCann has 11 points (7G, 4A) in 40 games this season.