UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak has already set a career high in wins but will try to win 30 games for the first time Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Halak (29-11-0) will make his 41st start. He's won each of his past three starts allowing two goals in each game.
"He has worked extremely hard and is competitive, aggressive," coach Jack Capuano said. "He's been a great teammate for us and he's a big part of the reason why we are where we are in the standings."
Halak started against the Maple Leafs in October, his fifth start of the season. He allowed five goals on 23 shots before getting pulled after the second period, but Capuano said he's been a different player since then.
"He was a little tentative [joining a new team] at first, but after that, he's relaxed," Capuano said. "He's playing confident and he's back to having fun, and that's when you've seen the success start to come."
Islanders captain John Tavares said having Halak has been a confidence boost for the team.
"He is just so good at making that first save and not really giving up a second or third opportunity," Tavares said. "When he is making that first save and swallowing up rebounds or putting them into good spots where it's easier to retrieved pucks or less dangerous for the opponent, it makes a big difference He's had some big games for us this year."
Forward Cal Clutterbuck will be in the lineup for New York after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury. He'll be on the third line with Brock Nelson and Nikolay Kulemin.
The Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division and three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Eastern Conference lead, a fact which isn't lost on the Maple Leafs.
"They've got some really skilled guys and they are pretty deep so it's going to be a tough game," forward Jake Gardiner said.
Maple Leafs coach Peter Horachek agreed.
"They've got dangerous players," Horacek said. "I think that Tavares is one of the best players that's out there. He's underrated. He doesn't get a lot of credit for what he does. I think he is a very talented guy. They are dangerous. They can score, they can transition. …We have to be prepared and play a motivated, strong game."
David Clarkson will be in the lineup for Toronto after being a healthy scratch the past two games. He has five goals this season and one in his past 19 games.
"You have to put it behind you and move forward," he said. "It's tough when you have to watch a few games but I think I will be more focused on us tonight and getting a win."
Here are the projected lineups:
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Leo Komarov - Peter Holland – David Clarkson
Daniel Winnik - Nazem Kadri - Mike Santorelli
David Booth - Trevor Smith - Richard Panik
Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak
Korbinian Holzer - Stephane Robidas
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
Scratched: Petter Granberg
Injured: Dion Phaneuf (hand), Joffrey Lupul (lower body)
Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey
Mikhail Grabovski - Frans Nielsen - Ryan Strome
Cal Clutterbuck - Brock Nelson - Nikolay Kulemin
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald
Lubomir Visnovsky - Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait
Scratched: Matt Donovan
Injured: Calvin de Haan (facial cut), (upper body), Kyle Okposo (upper body), Michael Grabner (upper body), Eric Boulton (lower body)
Status update: Capuano said de Haan could have played, but didn't want to change any of his defensive pairings. The Islanders returned forward Harry Zolnierczyk to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League to make room for Clutterbuck. … Lupul aggravated a knee injury Tuesday and will miss at least one week.
Who's hot: Hamonic has four assists in three games. … Grabovski has two goals in four games. … McDonald has goals in each game since being recalled from Bridgeport on Sunday. … Rielly has three goals in his past two games.