Two teams with virtually identical records matchup tonight in a game that will feature rookie of the year candidate and last year’s number one draft pick John Tavares of the New York Islanders. Tavares leads the Islanders in points with 27 and is tied for goals with Matt Moulson at 15.
These teams are tied for the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference and are two points out of the eight and final playoff spot. The Islanders who have a 7-3-2 record at home are looking to improve their chances, as they are in a 10 game stretch of which eight of those games are on home ice. They started with a 3-2 overtime in at home against the Bruins when Frans Nielsen scored his fourth goal of the year 24 seconds into OT, snapping a fifteen game scoring drought for himself.
The Islanders are 9-2-1 at home in their last 12 meetings against the Panthers, but haven’t won two consecutive games in a row since early November.
The Panthers are in the middle of a horrific schedule and will be playing their eighth game in thirteen days and are looking to continue their decent play on the road. They beat the New Jersey Devils Friday night 4-2, and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins the following night in overtime by a score of 3-2 with Evgeni Malkin getting the winner. While they didn’t win that game, they had a very solid effort for sixty minutes as they followed up the New Jersey game with the same mindset of keeping things simple.
Some nights lately it seems as though it’s Tomas Vokoun, Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton against the NHL, but if it wasn’t for them the Cats would be in a really bad spot, so thankfully those guys are leading the charge. The real questions are, can they keep it up, and when can we expect some secondary scoring?
The third and fourth lines are featuring a bunch of AHL players who are getting their chances to play some, but need to create more scoring opportunities for themselves. Getting a chance to play are Shawn Matthias and Michal Repik, who are filling in while the Panthers get through some injuries. Matthias who had a tough game against the Penguins as his face took a severe beating, is one player that has to start getting points as his effort has been questioned a bit by coach Peter DeBoer. Repik on the other hand is getting less than seven minutes of ice time, but needs to capitalize on his chances. DeBoer has questioned Repik’s defensive responsibilities when he has played. In all fairness to Repik, and if you look at the plus/minus stats, Repik is one of only seven Panther’s players who is either at zero or positive in that category. Rusty Olesz is a gaudy minus 11! Maybe he needs to go the the fourth line?
Both the Panthers and Islanders have some players out with minor as well as significant injuries and you can go here to get the latest on those as well as who’s hot and who’s cold for each team.
I’m looking for a win tonight. The Cats had another day off yesterday, so they should be rested. We’ll see!
Bye the way, I want to take a moment and thank everyone who took the time and voted for The Rat Trick over that the NHL Arena’s blogging contest. I beat out the other Panthers bloggers who also do a fine job. Thanks again to everyone!
Thanks for reading.