Two former New York Islanders, now wearing Minnesota Wild sweaters, will return to Long Island tonight. Forwards Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreiter had very different experiences with the Isles, but each will visit Nassau Coliseum for the first time since being traded.
The Wild, of course, acquired Moulson on the National Hockey League’s Trade Deadline Day from Buffalo, after the Islanders dealt him earlier in the year. With the Islanders, Moulson put up three consecutive 30-goal seasons. A pending unrestricted free agent, he said that the first trade from New York was a bit of shock, while the move from Buffalo was much more expected. In six games with the Wild, the winger has a goal and an assist. He’d like to see that production increase.
“I’d definitely like to mix in some more wins and goals to help this team,” Moulson said.
He was happy to land on a team amidst a playoff push and has adjusted to life in the Wild locker room. Now it’s a matter of putting it all together.
“It’s a great bunch of players, it’s easy to see that,” Moulson said. “It’s been an easy transition. I think it’s just the little things now, figuring out, not thinking so much and just playing. I think that comes after a couple games.”
Maybe playing in a familiar venue will spark the 30-year-old. However, he isn’t all that acquainted with the visiting surroundings.
“It’s a little weird,” Moulson said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in the visiting changing room here. It’s exciting, but an important game for us. We need two points on this trip and to get some wins here.”
Moulson said that he has a lot of good memories from his playing time in New York, most notably, the relationships he made over the four-plus seasons playing on Long Island.
Niederreiter’s time in the Islanders’ organization didn’t go as smoothly. New York’s top pick (fifth overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old was shuttled between the big club and the Bridge Port Sound Tigers, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. In three seasons, he skated in 64 games with the Isles, posting two goals and an assist.
While Moulson establish his game with the Islanders, Niederreiter needed a change of scenery and has found his in Minnesota. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has used the big wing in all types of situations on various lines this season and likes his flexibility.
“I’ve been very impressed with Nino and how he plays a two-way game for us,” Yeo said. “I’ve been able to slot him on the third line, play him in a checking role, been able to put him on the first line and he’s been unconditional with his game.”
There’s a good chance Niederreiter will find himself with another line tonight. Only a handful of players were on the ice for this morning’s team skate, and Yeo said that a line change or three is possible. However, he didn’t give the inquisitive media any indication of what those changes might be.
For curious minds, Erik Haula and Mike Rupp were the last two skaters off the ice this morning, while Justin Fontaine and Cody McCormick were the other forwards on the ice and off much earlier. Nate Prosser, who was last night’s healthy scratch on the blue line, and Clayton Stoner were the only defensemen to skate this morning.
“We’ve posted our lines, but we’ll wait till tonight for [the media] to critique them,” Yeo said.
Get a Little Closer
After reviewing last night’s game film, Yeo said that he’d like his club to get its scoring chances a little closer to the net. He likes the way the team played, but thought there weren’t enough chances from in close and around the net. That means getting dirty, crashing the crease and creating second-chance opportunities on rebounds.
“Ultimately, we probably lost the game because we didn’t have enough in around the net,” Yeo said. “A lot of chances that we’re getting are from that area, 10 feet away of the net, and we have to generate more chances in close.”
Yeo also didn’t indicate which netminder would be in goal, but before yesterday’s game in Boston said that there is a good chance Ilya Bryzgalov would be in tonight against the Isles. The netminder is 4-1-2 with a 2.39 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and two shutouts in nine career starts versus the Islanders.