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At the Rink: Coyotes at Islanders

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders scored six goals during four home games between Oct. 29 and Nov. 8. They weren't generating enough quality chances let alone putting pucks in the net.

The timing for a three-game trip to California couldn't have been better.

"It was good to get on the road," Islanders captain John Tavares said Monday. "Even though that trip is always tough, those three teams in that state always prove to be a tough test and have been very good over the last number of years. It was a good time for us to be together and just get out of New York. [It] certainly proved to be good for us."

The Islanders (9-6-3) won two of three in California, with wins against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks sandwiching a 2-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings, which arguably was their best 60-minute effort on the trip. The challenge now is to bring that same high level to Barclays Center, where they'll host the Arizona Coyotes (9-7-1) on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+).

"We played some good hockey," Tavares said. "We could have easily won that game in L.A. as well. It's definitely something to build on. But we have to bring that type of hockey back home, which hasn't been great lately."

Islanders forward Brock Nelson has picked up his game since being moved to left wing on the top line alongside Tavares and right wing Kyle Okposo. Nelson had at least one point in all three games.

What's changed?

"A couple of pucks have gone in when I shot it," Nelson said. "John's had a couple of goals go in just off simple plays. Just shooting the puck, trying to get open. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I had one go off the post in L.A.; sometimes that goes in. Just different bounces."

Perhaps it's no coincidence Nelson's play has improved since the Islanders decided to send Ryan Strome, their first-round pick at the 2011 NHL Draft, to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League 10 days ago. Strome had one goal in 12 games prior to his demotion; Nelson had gone six games without a point. He has three goals and two assists in his past six games.

"It [stinks] to see a guy like that go," Nelson said of Strome. "He's a great player and highly skilled. I expect to see him back here sooner rather than later. He's a good teammate. All the guys liked him. It's tough to see a guy like that go down. I don't think anybody here took it personally but a lot of guys knew maybe we needed to play a little bit better. I think guys have stepped up. I guess now looking back maybe you could say it was a turning point. But I think everybody before that knew what needed to be done."

The Coyotes did not have a morning skate but coach Dave Tippett told the Coyotes website that Anders Lindback will start in goal, and that forward Craig Cunningham and defenseman Philip Samuelsson will make their season debuts.

Here are the projected lineups:


Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair

Max Domi - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Craig Cunningham - Boyd Gordon - Kyle Chipchura

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone

Klas Dahlbeck - Zbynek Michalek

Philip Samuelsson- Connor Murphy

Anders Lindback

Mike Smith

Injured: Joe Vitale (orbital bone), Nicklas Grossmann (lower body), Steve Downie (upper body)

Scratched: John Scott, Stefan Elliott


Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey

Nikolay Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Steve Bernier

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Brian Strait - Marek Zidlicky

Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Thomas Hickey (lower body)

Scratched: Taylor Beck, Jean-Francois Berube, Adam Pelech

Status report: The Coyotes recalled Cunningham and Samuelsson on Sunday. Cunningham replaces Scott on the fourth line; Samuelsson will play on the third defense pairing in place of Elliott. … Zidlicky, who has one goal and five points in 16 games, re-enters the lineup after being a healthy scratch for a 4-1 win at Anaheim on Friday. He replaces Pelech, who made his NHL debut against the Ducks. "He played a great game, obviously," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Pelech. "He's going to continue to play games for us. The back-to-back nights, we do what we do. [Zidlicky] will go back in." … Halak gets the start after playing once on the road trip (Thursday at Los Angeles). Greiss was in goal for the Islanders' two victories.

Who's hot: Ekman-Larsson has two goals and three assists during a five-game point streak. … Duclair had a goal and an assist at Columbus on Saturday. He has three points in the past four games. … Hanzal has two goals and two assists in the past four. … Nelson has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. … Nielsen scored two goals in Anaheim on Friday and has 12 points in 18 games this season.


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