The New York Islanders coast into Sunrise tonight for the final game of four this season with the Panthers. Florida earned victories in each of the first three contests, opening the season with a 2-0 victory in Long Island, winning 4-2 two weeks later back in Florida, and winning 4-1 in Nassau Coliseum in February. The Panthers are 20-9-9 (.645) on home ice, the Islanders are 15-17-5 (.473) on the road.
Florida is finishing up a two game homestand. They dropped a shootout decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, 2-1. After tonight's game, they'll hit the road for a four game trip, playing the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, and the Detroit Red Wings next Sunday. Florida's current magic numbers are 11 for a playoff berth and for a division title (over current number nine Washington).
The Islanders will be playing in their fourth game of a five game roadtrip. They beat Montreal in a shootout last Saturday, 3-2, defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2 on Tuesday, and lost, 4-3, last night to the Tampa Bay Lightning (thanks for softening them up for us, we'll take it from here!) They'll finish up Tuesday night against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Their magic number for a playoff berth is 26 (two points for each victory plus two points for each point the Buffalo Sabres fail to gain; this of course does not take into account the five teams that stand between the Islanders and the eight spot).
In the last matchup between the two clubs, on February 12th, the Panthers handily defeated New York 4-1 behind a 26-for-27 save performance by Jose Theodore. Kris Versteeg (22), Tomas Fleischmann (18), Tyson Strachan (1), and Jack Skille (3) all lit the lamp for Florida. Frans Nielsen (10) scored the Islanders lone goal to open the scoring in the first period. Evgeny Nabokov allowed all four Florida goals on only 15 shots in defeat before being pulled in favor of Al Montoya. John Tavares spoke afterwards about accountability,
"These games are so important this time of the year and where we are in the standings," said Isles center John Tavares, who has now gone six straight games without a goal. "There's no excuse for us not to be ready to play or have our feet moving or having our game going off the bat. We have to improve in that area."
Florida dropped their last decision, 2-1 in a shootout to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. Ryan Jones (16) and Jason Garrison (16) each scored in the second period, the only goals in regulation for either team. Jose Theodore stopped 20-of-21 shots, Devan Dubnyk turned aside 26-of-27. Both goaltenders were perfect through three shootout rounds until Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ended it in the fourth round, beating Theodore high on the stick side. He spoke afterwards about the winning shot,
"Most of the guys went to his glove side," said Nugent-Hopkins, the first player taken in last June's NHL Draft. "I just went down there and saw the backhand was going to possibly be open, so I just tried it."
The Islanders dropped one yesterday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3 as Al Montoya allowed all four goals on 26 shots, while Dwayne Roloson claimed the win by stopping 34-of-37. Steven Stamkos (51, 52) scored twice to add to his NHL leading total, Tom Pyatt (11), and Tim Wallace (3) also scored for the Bolts. Frans Nielsen (15), Kyle Okposo (16), and Matt Moulson (33) scored for the Islanders. Pyatt spoke afterwards about the experience of scoring a goal,
"Anytime you score some goals it's unbelievable for your confidence," Pyatt said. "Scoring a goal in the NHL is just such a great feeling. To get my 11th feels pretty good and I just want to keep it going."
Kris Versteeg sits in 50th with 22 goals scored. Tomas Fleischmann and Jason Garrison are tied in 48th with 23, one short of Dave Gagner in 47th. Shawn Matthias will move past Mike Van Ryn with his next goal, into 45th all-time with 26. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik. Stephen Weiss will pass Nathan Horton into fourth all-time with his next goal, number 143.
Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 74
Tomas Fleischmann - 23
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 18
Sean Bergenheim - 17
Brian Campbell - 45
Stephen Weiss - 36
Tomas Fleischmann - 31
Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss - 54
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell - 49
Jason Garrison - plus-8
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Marcel Goc - plus-6
Jose Theodore - 9.4
Brian Campbell, Jason Garrison - 7.9
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - 6.2
Stephen Weiss - 6.1
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.
Panthers Starting Lineup:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall
Could be Jose Theodore (22-14-8)...just sayin'.
New York Islanders Injuries
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Islanders Starting Lineup:
Evgeny Nabokov (17-18-3) may be the Islanders starter..
Corsi Ratings: (last five games)
New York Islanders: 30-33-11, 71 points, fifth Atlantic Division, 14th Eastern Conference, 27th NHL, on pace for 79 points. Last five games: O-L-W-W-L, Playoff odds: .0002%