New York Islanders vs. Edmonton Oilers
Isles look to continue success against Western Conference foes
Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
(Answer from 12/29: Tie. The Isles tied the Flames 4-4 in the team’s first trip to Calgary. The Isles were losing until the last 21 seconds of the third period, when Butch Goring notched the score at 4’s.)
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 1
|Team Record: 15-18-3
Last Game: 4-3 L @ MIN
Season Series: 0-0-0 of 1
The 18-year-old Swiss winger has certainly faced his share of adversity in his first-year pro, spending a majority of the first 30 games of the 2011-12 season out with injury. He hasn't let that get his spirits down. Niederreiter is still a hard-working and dedicated player who wants to help the team win, and every day, he's improving his overall game.
"For a young player like Nino, every day is going to be a challenge," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. "Every game is going to be a challenge. We make mistakes as a team and there are still mistakes that he’s going to make and he’s going to continue to make. It’s a matter of video, it’s a matter of teaching and sitting down with him."
Capuano continued, "You don’t get that time and space that you get in the Western Hockey League. So for a young kid to come in, he’s a high-character guy, he’s a good teammate and he wants to get better every day. He’s very coachable. There are some things he still has to continue to work on."
Niederreiter has recorded one goal in 12 games.
| Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
In his first season with the Edmonton Oilers, after being selected first overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Nugent-Hopkins has shown impressive strength and success. With 13 goals and 22 assists, the Oilers' first-line centerman ranks second on the team in points behind his linemate and right wing, Jordan Eberle.
His high point totals are a testament to how much responsibility the rookie has already taken on. Nugent-Hopkins leads all Oilers in power play time (3:49 per game) and is second amongst the league's rookies in that category. However, he leads all rookies in power play assists (15) and power play points (18).
The center also leads the league's rookies in goals, assists, points (35), and shooting percentage (17.1%).
Joined by 2010's first overall selection Taylor Hall, Edmonton's top offensive line is one of the youngest in the league as they average less than 20-years-old amongst the three of them.
The similarities between the Islanders and Edmonton Oilers are hard to miss. Both franchises have focused on rebuilding their team through the draft. Now, they're each made up of a young core with a mix of veterans.
The Islanders have the likes of John Tavares, Nino Niederreiter, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo while the Oilers have a top line made of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
"They’re an enthusiastic group," Capuano said of Edmonton. "They play hard, they play quick. They have some skill up front. Their goaltending is strong and they have a good mix of leadership."
He continued, "I like the way they play. They’re a structured team, a hard working team and they’ve got some skill on their power play."
That's right, the Islanders special teams will have to be on top of their game if they want to match the league's third-best power play and ninth-best penalty kill.
Sparked by a grueling set of practices and new line combinations, the Islanders ended a three-game losing streak Thursday night, for which they hope to turn into a win streak.
But that newfound confidence and jump in their step doesn't mean the Islanders will have an easy game ahead of them in this New Year's Eve matinee.
Capuano said, "We have to grind it out, we have to be a physical team, we have to block shots, we have to do all the intangibles that it takes to win a game. Very seldom are we going to win a game 5-4, 6-5 or 7-6. There’s a certain way we have to play and that is our formula for success. We just have to make sure we keep doing the right things."
Season Series: As was the case last season, the Isles and Oilers are meeting just once this season. Edmonton won 2-1 at home on Jan. 6 in the only meeting of 2010-11. The Oilers have lost their last five visits to the Nassau Coliseum.
Big Story: In the early 1980s, this would have been one of the best matchups of the season. Instead, it's simply a meeting of rebuilding teams -- though both have some premium young talent.
Oilers: Edmonton grabbed a fast 1-0 lead Thursday night in Minnesota when Taylor Hall scored less than two minutes into the game. But the Wild scored the next three goals, forcing the Oilers to spend the rest of the night playing catch-up. They got within one goal twice but came up short in a 4-3 loss, their fifth in six games and second in as many games on their seven-game road trip.
"We have to make sure we keep playing this kind of hockey, and if we do we're going to be fine," said captain Shawn Horcoff, who scored early in the final period to pull the Oilers within 4-3. (Continue Reading)
The Islanders played the Oilers just once last season (Jan. 6), for which no current player on either team notched a goal. Former Islanders forward Blake Comeau scored the Islanders' only goal (at 13:00 of the second period), while former Islanders goaltender Nathan Lawson allowed both of Edmonton's goals on two of the first three shots (scored by Oilers former forwards Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner) and Kevin Poulin was called to action in relief. Poulin saved all 19 shots he faced, but the Isles would ultimately fall 2-1.
IslandersPower Play %: 17.2%
Penalty Kill %: 81.6%
Home Record: 7-9-3
Road Record: 5-8-3
Goals For: 80
Goals Against: 112
OilersPower Play %: 20.7%
Penalty Kill %: 84.6%
Home Record: 10-6-2
Road Record: 5-12-1
Goals For: 99
Goals Against: 100
Check out the Islanders depth chart. Head Coach Jack Capuano said that seven defenseman will skate for warmups and the scratch will be decided shortly thereafter. Evgeni Nabokov stars, Anders Nilsson backs up.
Oilers (Expected) LineupsForwards: Hall- Nugent-Hopkins -Eberle, Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky, Gagner-Belanger-Jones, Eager-Lander-Hordichuk
Defensemen: Smid-Gilbert, Teubert-Petry, Peckham-Potter
Goaltenders: Khabibulin, Dubnyk
Expected scratches: Whitney, Sutton, Petrell
Islanders captain Mark Streit on what will be the key to the Isles success: "Puck management. In the past games, or even most of the time, we have so many turnovers that costs us momentum and at the end, games. We got rid of those (Thursday) night and we had more offensive zone time. If we chip pucks, get in on our forecheck and have more offensive zone time, we'll have success. When we turn pucks over, it goes back in our end and we get stuck. It’s two completely different scenarios. So I think that was the difference. We created a lot of chances five-on-five, which was good for our confidence. Guys know how we have to play to get scoring chances and to win games."
Islanders center Frans Nielsen on establishing consistency: "Consistency has been our problem all year. We know what we have to do, but for some reason there are some games where we don’t bring it like we did (Thursday) night. When we turn pucks over, we make more mental mistakes, make bad decisions. It’s not that we don’t compete hard. (Thursday), when we got the puck in deep, that’s how we have to play. We can’t give them anything for free."
Cory Wright contributed to this report