New York Islanders Visit Florida Panthers: Game 75 Preview

The New York Islanders visit the Florida Panthers in Sunrise tonight

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."

Common Thread:

Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim played 246 games over his first five seasons, scoring 40 goals and 40 assists with a minus-19 rating and 195 penalty minutes.

Islanders forward Marty Reasoner played every game last season with the Panthers. He scored 14 goals and 18 assists with a plus-2 rating and 22 penalty minutes.

Panthers Milestones:

Games:
Dmitry Kulikov moves into 43rd all-time, tying Stu Barnes with his 191st game. Shawn Matthias moves into a tie for 39th with Bryan McCabe, playing his 199th game.

Goals:
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.

Assists:
Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Ruslan Salei in 42nd all-time with his 46th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will pass Martin Gelinas into 34th all-time with his 55th assist.

Games:
Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 74

Goals:
Tomas Fleischmann - 23
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 18
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Assists:

Brian Campbell - 45
Stephen Weiss - 36
Tomas Fleischmann - 31

Points:
Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss - 54
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell - 49

Plus/Minus:

Jason Garrison - plus-8
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Marcel Goc - plus-6

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 9.4
Brian Campbell, Jason Garrison - 7.9
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - 6.2
Stephen Weiss - 6.1

Panthers Injuries:
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.

Panthers Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Jerred Smithson - Scottie Upshall

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Goalie:
Could be Jose Theodore (22-14-8)...just sayin'.

Islanders Injuries:

New York Islanders Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rick DiPietro sports-hernia 12/04/2011

Islanders Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Matt Moulson - John Taveres - P.A. Parenteau
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Casey Cizikas - Micheal Grabner
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Nino Niederreiter

Defensemen:
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios

Goalie:
Evgeny Nabokov (17-18-3) may be the Islanders starter..

Corsi Ratings: (last five games)

Florida Panthers:
Marcel Goc - .575
Dmitry Kulikov - .550
Sean Bergenheim - .549
Wojtek Wolski - .534
Tomas Kopecky - .530

New York Islanders:
David Ullstrom - .653
Dylan Reese - .603
Nino Niederreiter - .602
Casey Cizikas - .592
Travis Hamonic - .581

Standings:

Florida Panthers: 36-24-14, 86 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five games: W-W-W-L-O, Playoff odds: 97%

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%

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