New York Islanders @ Minnesota Wild
Isles head back onto the road for three games
Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
|Team Record: 9-14-6
Last Game: 3-2 L vs. DAL
Season Series: 1-0-0 of 2
|Team Record: 20-8-4
Last Game: 4-3 SOL vs. CHI
Season Series: 0-1-0 of 2
The Isles center played 22:21 against the Dallas Stars, the most ice time he's received all season and a high amongst Isles forwards Thursday night. While he played 3:34 on the power play, he picked up a team-high 6:41 on the penalty kill. He won 10-of-18 faceoffs and three takeaways.
Though he's played a steady two-way game, Nielsen has struggled to get on the score sheet. The Dane had an assist on Michael Grabner's first period goal, but hasn't scored a goal of his own since Nov. 15th. That doesn't mean he hasn't been trying. He had two quality shots on goal in the third period on Saturday, the first cycling down low on the power play and the second with 1:29 left on the clock, he tried to shovel the puck in for the dirty goal around the crease.
Playing against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Mikko Koivu scored his eighth goal of the season and his fourth in his last five games to force overtime with 5:04 left in regulation. But sometime during that game, the Wild's leading scorer (8 goals, 20 assists) sustained a lower body injury and is expected to miss Saturday night's contest against the Islanders.
In Koivu's absence, Minnesota will depend on veteran winger Dany Heatley to lead the Wild's offense. Playing in his 700th career NHL game last Tuesday (12/13), Heatley has the experience to lead a young offense, but he also has the scoring touch. The 30-year-old is the Wild's second leading scorer with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 32 games. Though his point streak was put to an end last game, Heatley scored three goals and 4 assists in a seven-game span dating back to Nov. 30.
Time and again, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano has pointed to the success of the Islanders special teams as a way to win games, but as the Isles dropped their fourth straight decision on Thursday night, Capuano pointed to the Isles power play and penalty kill as areas for improvement.
"We have to make sure we aren’t staying out too long," Capuano said. "It’s all the little things that every other coach is telling their players too. But I sense the frustration setting in on the power play and that can’t happen."
He continued, "(Our opponents) are getting two sets of guys to our one unit. We have to be able to number one, outwork them. Once we gain entry, outwork them, find the lane and we need to shoot pucks. All our power play goals have come from getting pucks to the net. We aren’t doing it right now and that’s a problem."
Bound to help win the special teams battle, the Islanders are expected to see Mark Eaton (knee) and/or Andrew MacDonald (right leg) back in the lineup Saturday night.
Season series: This is the second and final meeting of the season between the teams. On Oct. 10, Andrew MacDonald and Frans Nielsen scored 2:40 apart in the first period and the Islanders killed off all seven Wild power plays in a 2-1 victory on Long Island.
Big Story: Someone's streak has to end -- the Wild are winless in two straight, while the Islanders have lost three straight. (Continue Reading)
The Isles and Wild met earlier this season to play a Monday matinee on Oct. 10 at Nassau Coliseum. In search of their first win, the Islanders jumped out to an early 2-0 lead from goals by Andrew MacDonald and Frans Nielsen. Minnesota’s Matt Cullen cut the deficit to one just over a minute into the third, but Al Montoya stood his ground making 20 saves to earn the win. A low-shooting affair, the two teams combined for 35 shots total. - By Cory Wright
IslandersPower Play %: 16.5%
Penalty Kill %: 80.8%
Home Record: 6-8-3
Road Record: 3-6-3
Goals For: 67
Goals Against: 96
WildPower Play %: 17.0%
Penalty Kill %: 85.3%
Home Record: 10-4-2
Road Record: 10-4-2
Goals For: 83
Goals Against: 70
(Answer from 12/15: Viktor Kozlov. While everyone on the list has scored four in a game (Bossy did it 7 times) Kozlov was the most recent scoring 4 against the Rangers on Dec. 3, 2006.)
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said that Al Montoya is starting, Nino Niederreiter and Andrew MacDonald are back in the lineup.
Wild (Expected) LineupsForwards: Powe-Koivu-Heatley, Latendresse-Cullen-Clutterbuck, Johnson-Brodziak-Gillies, Peters-Almond-Staubitz
Defensemen: Schultz-Lundin, Stoner-Zidlicky, Spurgeon-Scandella
Goaltenders: Backstrom, Hackett
Expected scratches: Bouchard, Harding
Though Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan was returned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday afternoon, he had some pretty memorable things to say about his first NHL game and how it lived up to his expectations: "For sure, anything like that is an awesome experience. It’s probably one of the most memorable moments of my hockey career. I keep on saying this, but it’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamt of playing in the NHL ever since I was a little boy and it was a surreal moment and it’s hard to put that moment into words."
de Haan on the moment when it all became real: "Probably just the first time stepping on the ice for warm ups and seeing the Dallas Stars on the other end, Brenden Morrow, a gold medalist, Sheldon Souray and guys like that who have been around the league for a long time that you grew up watching. It’s pretty cool playing against those guys."
Cory Wright contributed to this report