NEW YORK ISLANDERS (19-11-5) VS. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (12-14-7)
6 P.M. BARCLAYS CENTER, MSG+, CHANNEL FINDER, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. HALAK ON IR:
Jaroslav Halak was placed on the team's injured reserve, retroactive to Dec. 21, with an upper-body injury.
"He's not 100%, we just want to let him heal up here a little bit and make sure that when he is ready that he'll join us on the trip and go forward from there," Jack Capuano said.
Thomas Greiss will start in goal, while Christopher Gibson was recalled from Bridgeport as the team's backup goalie.
2. OKPOSO BACK IN:
Kyle Okposo is feeling better after a little bit of rest and is back in the lineup after practicing on Saturday afternoon. Okposo sat the Islanders last two games in the hopes that the extra rest would help kick what was described as a “nagging” injury.
"I wanted to play in every game, but it was nice to get some rest and try and let the body heal. Anytime you take that much time off the ice you're not going to feel that normal, but it (lower-body injury) felt alright, it felt better than it has, so I'm just going to try and push through it and we'll see what happens."
3. MICHAEL GRABNER RETURNS:
Michael Grabner returns to play the Islanders for the first time since being dealt in training camp. Grabner played five seasons with the Islanders, scoring a career-high 34 goals in the 2010-11 season. The Austrian winger is renowned for his game-breaking speed, but injuries took their toll on Grabner in his final two seasons with the Islanders, limiting him to 34 games in 2014-15. Grabner has eight points (4G, 4A) in 31 games for the Maple Leafs, including a four-point night on Dec. 19 vs. the LA Kings.
4. MAPLE LEAFS:
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a series of changes in the offseason, trading star winger Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins, while adding a pair of superstars – coach Mike Babock and General Manager Lou Lamoriello – to the front office. Babcock said turning the Leafs into a contender would be a process and it appears that the Leafs are going through the growing pains, as they are currently last in the Atlantic Division with 12 wins and 31 points.
With Kessel, who led the Leafs in scoring for all six of his seasons in Toronto, gone James van Riemsdyk now drives the Leafs offense. Van Riemsdyk leads the Leafs with 24 points (12G, 12A) in 33 games, while Leo Komarov leads the team with 15 goals. Komarov, a native of Narva, Estonia, has eight points (5G, 3A) in his last five games.
The Islanders have won six of their last nine games against the Leafs, taking two-of-three in each of the past three seasons.