The five game home stand continues when the New York Islanders make their first regular season appearance in Nashville since December 13, 2010. So far, the Preds have split both games they've played at Bridgestone Arena, and have yet to establish any real dominance on their home ice. Even though they looked good for the first half of the Toronto game, that fizzled quickly. A full 60 minute effort is much needed here tonight.
Last Season's Stats
|New York Islanders||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.903||27th||.915||17th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.25||18th||2.92||27th|
|# of PK's/Gm||2.96||5th||2.90||3rd|
New York Islanders
The Islanders had their best season in recent memory in 2013, ending a lengthy playoff drought. They were a surprise to many, as consensus was they still needed a season or two for all the pieces in play to fully mature. This year's full 82 game schedule should answer whether they reached that next level, or or need to sit tight a little longer. (Personally, I like their chances of being a playoff team.)
They are fresh off a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night. However, even if you buy into the "back-to-back fatigue" concept, don't expect it to slow the Islanders down. While they may not be the most skilled team, they have plenty of guys with the ability to burn teams. Newly minted captain John Tavares has established himself as one of the best players in the league, and should be in the MVP talk for many seasons to come. Last season saw him score 47 points in 48 games, and the season before was 81 in 82. If he's allowed any room on the ice, the puck will be put in the back of the net.
In addition, Michael Grabner is one of the fastest skaters in the league, and Cal Clutterbuck (who returned to action last night) is one of the hardest hitters. Grabner has seven points in four games so far this season, while Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey have five.
Kevin Poulin started in goal last night, so it would make sense to expect Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes tonight. The Predators haven't seen Nabokov since he was a member of the San Jose Sharks. He's 14-8-3 all time against Nashville, with a .911 SV% and a 2.26 GAA.
Be sure to check out the fantastic folks at Lighthouse Hockey for the other side of the story.
Let's put things into perspective, shall we? Rookie sensation Tomas Hertl has (at press time) as many goals as the Nashville Predators. The team has scored only six goals so far this season, tied with New York (Rangers) and Philadelphia. Only one team has scored fewer goals than those three: the Buffalo Sabres.
On the other side of the coin, the 1.5 GF/G is looking ghastly with the 3.25 GA/G the team is giving up. There is no way to sugar coat it, the team has to start playing better. It's a little hard to point fingers at the defenseman right now, when Ryan Ellis is the old man on the bottom three, and a 19-year-old rookie is filling in on the top pair. (You can still do it if you want, though. I won't stop you.) The forwards, though, need to start pumping tons of rubber on net and getting bodies in front of the goaltender. A corps like this can feast on rebounds and second chances, but players have to be positioned for them.
They could get some much needed help, as rumblings from Trotz have suggested Viktor Stalberg could be in the line up tonight. Nothing has been confirmed, but we'll be sure to keep you updated with the latest.
Game time is 7:00 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. This is going to be a tough one, so if you are going to the game be sure to yell extra loud and get super rowdy. If you're watching at home, wear your lucky shirt and will the team to score with your mind power.