A Tavares surge in January is about as reliable as a crowded gym after New Year’s. The Islanders captain already has 12 points (5g/7a) in six games this month, averaging two points-per-game. Of course, two points are merely an average, as Tavares put up a five-spot (3g/2a) against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 6 and followed it up with three assists the next night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Stars got a second helping of Tavares-in-January last night, as the league’s second-leading scorer had two points, including the game-winning goal. So far, the Islanders are 5-1-0 this month.
Tavares has already outdone himself compared to last year, when he scored 11 points (4g/7a) in seven January games. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a full January last season, so what Tavares could have done remains a mystery, but he still helped the team to a 4-2-1 record.
Of course, all his January production is going to be compared to the 2011-12 season, the true benchmark of his January potential. The then third-year player scored 22 points (9g/13a) in 13 January games, taking home the NHL’s first star of the month award. Among Tavares’ exploits were six multi-point games, four game-winning goals and a 10-game point streak (6g/11a)*.
The Islanders played the Carolina Hurricanes three times in January 2012 and Tavares had nine points (4g/5a). Overall, the Islanders went 7-5-1.
There are still 10 games on the Islanders January schedule this season, so Tavares needs just over a point-per-game to set a new high-water mark. If he keeps it up, the NHL will have to start calling it Johnuary.
*The 2012 point streak actually lasted 12 games, as it started on Dec. 29 with a goal and an assist against Calgary.
|American Airlines Center, the venue for tonight's Islanders-Stars game.|
The Islanders are deep in the heart of Texas, as they look to extend their road winning streak to seven games.
John Tavares had five points (3g/2a) as the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 7-3 a week ago at Nassau Coliseum. The Stars will certainly be motivated for the rematch and the Islanders shouldn’t expect any southern hospitality from their hosts.
Lineup Notes/Changes: Head coach Jack Capuano is going with the same lineup from Friday’s 2-1 overtime win in Denver, meaning Eric Boulton, Matt Carkner and Peter Regin are out of the lineup. Kevin Poulin will start in goal for the Islanders for a third straight game.
From the Coach: I want to see us maintain the same sense of urgency. This team is going to come out hard. If you go back to the past few games, they put up a ton of shots in this building. They do a lot of good things in this building. We have to play fast, manage the puck and try to play in the offensive zone as much as we can.
Donovan Homecoming: Oklahoma native Matt Donovan grew up about three hours away from Dallas and is the Islanders resident Dallas expert. Donovan played one season for the Dallas Junior Stars AAA Major Midget team and said he knows a couple hundred people in the stands tonight.
Donovan on Dallas Hockey: “It’s a pretty tight-knit hockey community. I know a lot of people playing youth hockey down here and I played a year down here. Between Oklahoma City and Dallas, you get to know a lot of people playing down here.
The Islanders flew to Dallas immediately after the game, landing in Dallas around 2 a.m. central time. Fresh off their overtime win, the Islanders practiced deep in the heart of Texas Saturday afternoon, skating at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Irving, Texas. With a youth hockey tournament going on in the facilities’ second rink, the Islanders had plenty of interested spectators at practice.
Here are some pictures of today’s practice.
The Ken Hitchcock rink at Dr. Pepper StarCenter.
The Islanders stretch before their practice in Texas.
The pace of practice picks up after the morning stretch.
A couple of Islanders fans in Dallas take in Saturday's practice.
Michael Grabner, last night's OT hero gets set for a drill at practice.
Kevin Poulin practices in the home end of the Hitchcock rink.
Kyle Okposo and John Tavares are the last two Islanders on the ice on Saturday.
Matt Carkner signs some autographs for youth hockey players after practice.
|Chris King (left) is all smiles before his first televised Islanders call.|
Chris King, the radio voice of Islanders hockey for over 15 years, made the jump to the TV Friday night, filling in for Howie Rose on MSG+ network. The broadcast was Kinger’s first as a TV play-by-play announcer, but he had previously filled in as the color commentator back in 2006.
The temporary move (Rose rejoins the team in Florida) caused a ripple effect in the Isles broadcasting depth chart. Greg Picker, the host of Isles TV and radio color commentator on the road, moved into the radio play-by-play role for Friday’s game. WRHU’s Rob Joyce was called in as Picker’s emergency backup.
Currently the broadcast depth chart is as follows:
TV: Butch Goring, Chris King
Radio: Greg Picker, Rob Joyce
IR: Howie Rose (day-to-day; cold weather)
Watch Kinger call the winner:
Denver is one of America's most scenic cities, with the Rocky Mountains providing a picturesque background to the metropolitan area. Located 5,280 feet above sea level, the Mile High City lives up to its name.
9:45 a.m. (all times Mountain) – The players get on the bus for the ride over to the arena. It’s a brisk, sunny day in Denver and the mountains look spectacular from the hotel and the bus ride.
|Anders Nilsson, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin get on the bus to Pepsi Center.|
10:00 a.m. – The bus pulls into the Pepsi Center. Everyone begins their morning routines and gets acquainted with the building. Pepsi Center is located between the downtown core and Mile High Stadium (officially called Sports Authority Field at Mile High) - the home of the Denver Broncos - Pepsi Center has views 360 degrees around the arena.
|Downtown Denver from Pepsi Center.|
|Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, as seen from Pepsi Center.|
|The Rocky Mountains provide the picturesque background in Denver.|
10:30 a.m. – Avalanche practice begins and the media/team staff get their first live look at Nathan MacKinnon and head coach Patrick Roy.
|Hockey Hall of Famer and Avalanche coach Patrick Roy skates during the Avs morning skate.|
11:30 a.m. – The Islanders begin their optional morning skate at Pepsi Center.
|A panoramic view of Pepsi Center.|
12:15 p.m - The Islanders opened up the room for media availabilty.
Click here for Morning Skate Updates
5:00 p.m. - Arrived at Pepsi Center for tonight's game. The scoreboard above center ice is an absolute beast.
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The Islanders are in the Mile High City and face the Colorado Avalanche for the first time in over two years. Both teams enter the contest with 4-1 records in their last five games, but the Islanders have won five straight on the road.
Ahead of tonight's game, the Islanders held an optional morning skate in Denver. Here are some news, notes and quotes from today's skate at Pepsi Center and a look at the Avalanche.
Lineup Notes/Changes: Colin McDonald draws in on the fourth line for Eric Boulton, while Matt Donovan steps in for Matt Carkner on the back end. Kevin Poulin will start in goal.
Road Streak: The Islanders have won five straight on the road and six of their last seven away from Nassau Coliseum.
Power Play: The Islanders power play went 4-for-6 against Dallas and Toronto and is 9-for-18 over the team’s last five games. The 50 percent conversion rate catapulted the Islanders' power play from 23rd in the league to 12th.
Andrew MacDonald on the PP: Right now we are all on the same page and you can really see that guys are anticipating well where other guys are going to be. We’re getting pucks to the net and are converging on the net and that’s what needs to happen to have a successful power play.
Point Streaks: Thomas Vanek is on a career-high, 10-game point streak (5g/10a). John Tavares has points in his last seven games (7g/9a) and the team’s last six (7g/8a). Tavares has eight points (3g/5a) in his last two games. Calvin de Haan has three points (1g/2a) in his last two games.
Poulin: Kevin Poulin has won two straight games for the Islanders since Evgeni Nabokov suffered a lower-body injury.
Donovan in Denver: Matt Donovan played two seasons for the University of Denver, recording 16 goals and 37 assists in 78 games.
From the Coach: We need Donovan to play his game. Just keep moving the puck, make a good first pass, play high-percentage hockey and we want him to move his feet, that’s the biggest thing.
Avalanche Warning: The Avalanche got off to a blistering start this season, going 19-6 in their first 25 games. The team cooled off in December, skating to a 5-5-4 record, but has rebounded for a 3-1-0 start to January.
Team Leaders: Matt Duchene leads the Avalanche in goals (16), points (38) and is tied for the team lead in assists (22). However, the Islanders top priority may be the duo of Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny, who are currently the two hottest players on the Avs. Landeskog is riding a career-high, eight-game point streak (3g/8a) while Stastny has eight points (2g/6a) in his last three games.MacKinnon: Tonight is the Islanders first look at Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft. MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 28 points (14g/14a).
Avs PP: The Avs have scored a power-play goal in three straight games (4-for-9) and have gone 7-for-15 in their last six games.
Day 1: Thursday, January 9 - Long Island to Denver
The Islanders were back on Long Island for a couple days after Tuesday’s 5-3 win in Toronto. On Thursday, the guys practiced at Islanders Iceworks before catching a flight to Denver.
4:30 p.m. (Mountain Time): The guys have landed safely in Denver. It’s 37 degrees in the Mile High City and feels balmy compared to Toronto. Off to the hotel for some R & R before tomorrow's tilt with the Avs.
10:30 a.m. (Eastern Time): The Islanders hit the ice at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset. Here are some pictures and video of the Isles practice:
The Islanders take their show on the road, as they head to Denver, Dallas, Sunrise, Tampa and Philadelphia for five games in 10 days. Long Island is cold, but the Islanders are red-hot on the road, having won five straight games away from Nassau Coliseum.
Check back on the Islanders road trip blog for behind-the-scenes coverage and get the full road experience.
Isles Road Games:
Friday, Jan. 10 at Colorado Avalanche
Sunday, Jan. 12 at Dallas Stars
Tuesday, Jan. 14 at Florida Panthers
Thursday, Jan. 16 at Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, Jan. 18 at Philadelphia Flyers
“It’s always a big honor to play for your country and it’s a special feeling when you put on that sweater,” Okposo said.
Kyle Okposo in action against Sweden during the 2010 World Championships in Germany.
The St. Paul, MN, native will be participating in his third World Championships (2009, 2010) and has recorded eight points (3g/5a) in 15 international games. Okposo has also represented the US at two World Junior Hockey Championships (2007, 08) winning a bronze medal in 2007.
“It’s definitely nice to know how highly they think of you to keep asking,” Okposo said.
Okposo isn’t satisfied with just being named to the team. He’s looking to win gold and redeem his finish with the Americans in 2010.
“I’m going in with the mindset that this is the playoffs,” Okposo said. “The last time I went, we didn’t have a very good showing and I want a little bit of redemption from that.”
Strome dominated the first three games of Niagara’s series against Oshawa, picking up eight points (3g/5a). The Islanders fifth overall pick in 2011 currently leads the OHL playoff-scoring race. Strome scored a goal and added two assists in Thursday’s 8-2 win and put 51 shots on goal. On Saturday, Strome posted two assists including a helper on Freddie Hamilton’s game-winning goal in a 6-1 victory. Strome scored two goals in 1:05 on Sunday and Niagara threw 50 shots on net again, but Niagara fell 6-4 to Oshawa.
Niagara holds a 2-1 lead over the Oshawa Generals. Next game: Wed. @ OSH 7:05
Pedan’s seventh-seeded Guelph Storm currently hold a 2-0 series lead over the second-seeded Plymouth Whalers. The Islanders prospect and Guelph blueliner is second in playoff scoring amongst defenseman in the OHL. Pedan scored the game-winner in a 4-2 victory on Friday night and contributed two assists in Sunday’s 5-3 win. Pedan holds the Whalers’s number as he now has two goals and six assists in six games against Plymouth.
Guelph holds a 2-0 lead over the Plymouth Whalers. Next game: Tues. @ PLY 7:05
Kabanov and the Shawinigan Cataractes beat up the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies over the weekend, winning both games by a combined 13-4. Kabanov contributed a goal in Friday’s 7-1 rout of the Huskies and a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 6-3 win. Shawinigan showed no mercy against Rouyn-Noranda, outshooting them 28-5 in the third period of Friday’s contest. Rouyn-Noranda reached double-digit shots in a period for the first time in the third period of Saturday’s game.
Shawinigan holds a 2-0 lead over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Next game: Tues. @ ROU 7:30