The New York Islanders and their depleted defense received good news in advance of their game Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Colisuem.
Thomas Hickey, who bruised his ankle when blocking a shot during a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, will play against the Jets. The Islanders defense is already missing Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body), so Hickey's presence will only help their quest to end a 2-8-0 slump that's resulted in a fall to last place in the Metropolitan Division and tied for 14th in the Eastern Conference.
"It's definitely fair to say we haven't been at our best," Hickey said. "I think if the whole team can pick up its play, we'll come out looking a little better. In our zone it's not just the two D. It's all six guys and we all have to be better."
Notably, the Islanders need to get better on special teams. The power play is 4-for-39 in the past 10 games. The penalty kill (70.3 percent) is last in the League and during their skid the Islanders have allowed 14 goals on 32 times shorthanded.
The Jets offer a potential antidote; their power play (12.5 percent) is 27th in the League and has converted three times on 34 chances away from home. But despite the injuries and issues on special teams, Islanders coach Jack Capuano offers no excuses for the lack of manpower.
"We've got some guys that are banged up on the back end, but it gives other guys an opportunity," Capuano said. "To me, that's what it's about. Those guys have to play within the system, play within their game. It's a great opportunity if you're in their shoes."
Kevin Poulin starts in goal against a Winnipeg team 0-5-1 in its past six games against the Islanders. The Jets arrive to Long Island off a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on Monday at Prudential Center that ended a four-game losing streak.
On the second of a five-game road trip, the Jets aren't taking the Islanders lightly despite their recent struggles.
"The big thing for us is that the Islanders have played pretty well," coach Claude Noel said. "I know they've not been successful the past couple of games, but they've been in the games. We have enough of our own situation that we have to look after. We have to play hard and defend well, which is really what we're trying to get done here."
Al Montoya is in goal for the Jets against his former team. Montoya is 2-2-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in six games.
"He’s been really strong so we have no problems with him playing," Noel said.
Here are the projected lineups for the Jets and Islanders:
Andrew Ladd – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane – Olli Jokinen – Devin Setoguchi
Matt Halischuk – Mark Scheifele – Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi – James Wright – Chris Thorburn
Dustin Byfuglien – Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart – Keaton Ellerby
Jacob Trouba – Grant Clitsome
Scratched: Anthony Peluso, Adam Pardy
Injured: Jim Slater (sports hernia surgery), Paul Postma (blood clot in leg), Zach Bogosian (strained groin)
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Josh Bailey
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Brock Nelson
Andrew MacDonald – Travis Hamonic
Matt Donovan – Aaron Ness
Thomas Hickey – Matt Carkner
Scratched: Radek Martinek, Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton
Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body), Evgeni Nabokov (strained groin)