Skip to Main Content

Five keys for Islanders vs. Panthers, Game 3

Florida's top line of Jagr, Huberdeau, Barkov needs to get going with series shifting to Brooklyn

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders and Florida Panthers play Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Barclays Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, FS-F). Series tied, 1-1.

Here are five keys for Game 3: 

1. Home cooking: Sunday marks the first Stanley Cup Playoff game at Barclays Center, the Islanders' home after playing at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for 43 years. The players are excited to see what type of atmosphere their fans can create after New York gained home-ice advantage by splitting the first two games in Florida.

"It'll be a new experience, but at the same time, we love our fan base and the passion and the intensity they bring and the atmosphere they can create," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "I'm looking forward to that."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm2: Tavares bangs rebound past Luongo

Florida fed off its crowd in Game 1 and needed 1:55 to get on the scoreboard. The Panthers are aware the Islanders will try to make an early push in their building and must find a way to weather the storm during the early stages of the game.

2. Three in four for the goalies: Scheduling conflicts in each arena led to back-to-back games in Florida to open the series and now a third game in four days. That could take its toll on Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss and Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo (especially with travel after Game 2), but neither coach is too concerned. 

Greiss had a .921 save percentage over the first two games; Luongo made 41 saves Friday after allowing five goals on 26 shots in Game 1.

"Our club has done it for the last three or four years, and he's done it," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Greiss. "He played well on the back-to-back. He's a strong, he's a well-conditioned athlete, he's a focused guy. We want him to go out there and give us another really good game and give us a chance to win the game. I have no questions about Thomas Greiss and his compete level."

"[Luongo's] a responsible guy; he prepares himself the same way all the time," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "He's a good goalie, one of the best in the League. He had a great game [Friday] night."

3. Grimaldi out, McKegg in: After struggling in the faceoff circle and defensive zone in Games 1 and 2, Panthers forward Rocco Grimaldi was sent to Portland of the American Hockey League on Saturday, and rookie forward Greg McKegg is expected to take Grimaldi's role. McKegg, 23, had two goals in 15 regular-season games. 

Gallant said Sunday that Derek MacKenzie could get an extended role; he played 14:14 in Game 2.

Video: FLA@MTL: McKegg collects rebound, beats Condon

"Derek's a solid player," Gallant said. "He deserves a lot of minutes, and sometimes he doesn't get as many minutes. The more I can play him, the better. He's a good PK guy. Just switch it up a little bit."

4. Can Florida's top line break through?: The Panthers' trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr had plenty of quality scoring opportunities over the first two games of this series, but is still searching for its first goal. Gallant believes the three are on the verge of getting over the hump.

"I thought the line's played great, I really have," Gallant said. "I thought they had a lot of scoring chances in both games, they're just snake-bitten a little bit. But just keep playing well and work hard and things will go good for them." 

5. Bailey must step up: The first two games didn't go very well for Islanders forward Josh Bailey, who enters Sunday without a point and a minus-4 rating. Capuano remains confident that Bailey can contribute, and the latter will get a chance to redeem himself in Game 3.

Video: FLA@NYI: Bailey puts a rebound past Luongo to tie it

"I just want to get better," Bailey said. "It's that time of year. You can't really look back, you're just looking ahead. I think the playoffs are a great time of year for that, where you have a chance to be the hero every night. It's exciting. I'm just looking to be better. Obviously you want to improve on some things, but just stay focused and keep a positive mindset."

View More