New York Islanders 12-12-3 (27 pts) vs Florida Panthers 7-15-6 (20 pts)
The New York Islanders come to town tonight as the Florida Panthers play a quick one game home stand before embarking on their longest trip of the year. A win tonight would be a great confidence boost going into the five game road trip, and the Panthers are in definite need of a confidence boost having lost seven of their last eight games. Tonight is the first meeting between these two teams. They will meet again in New York next week in game four of the Panthers’ trip. Florida will also face the likes of Carolina, Toronto, New Jersey and the New York Rangers during that stretch.
Tonight could be the first chance for Panther fans to get a look at new acquisition T.J. Brennan. Florida dipped into the trade market yesterday bringing in Brennan in exchange for a fifth round pick in the 2013 draft. Florida sent Nolan Yonkman back to the San Antonio Rampage presumably to open up roster space for Brennan. Ed Jovanovski is nearing a return and he could be back playing with the Panthers as soon as tonight. If that is the case and Jovo is indeed back tonight then I would expect either Brennan or Colby Robak to be a healthy scratch.
The New York Islanders have been in the playoff hunt all season and currently occupy the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot. The Islanders are led by former number one draft pick John Tavares. Tavares is tied for third in the NHL in goals with 17.
Also playing for the Islanders is Michael Grabner a player the Panthers’ organization is familiar with. Grabner came over to the Panthers in return for sending Keith Ballard to the Canucks. After Grabner did not make the team at the start of the 10-11 season he was placed on waivers and scooped up by the New York Islanders. Grabner would go on to score 34 goals that season for the Islanders meanwhile, no Panther scored more than 23 that year. This season Grabner has scored 10 goals and three assists.
Jacob Markstrom should return to the crease tonight after Scott Clemmensen got the start in Thursday’s game against the Boston Bruins. Clemmensen was serviceable in the 4-1 loss stopping 28 of 31 shots faced. Florida continued their early game ineptness allowing a goal to Zdeno Chara at the 3:55 mark. The Panthers have conceded the first goal within the first five minutes of their last five games. The early goals allowed make Panthers games feel like this.
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