Hurricanes Record: 3-2-3 (9 pts.)
Islanders Record: 3-2-2 (8 pts.)
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Tonight's game will be broadcast on SportsSouth alternative channels instead of on Fox Sports Carolinas. Please make note of the channels. The Canes have conveniently linked a channel guide for the viewing area, find it on their Broadcast page.
The Hurricanes swept last season's series with the Islanders (two regulation wins plus a shootout win, yes, you read that right), but the Islanders won where it counted because the overtime point secured a date to the post-season dance. This year for the first time they will meet as in-division rivals in the Metropolitan division, where they are currently cheek-to-jowl (equal wins/losses, the Hurricanes with an extra game and overtime point).
Both teams are coming off 3-2 regulation wins on Thursday night. On the road, the Hurricanes spotted the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead before rallying in the third (and getting a little help from the hockey gods on the third goal) to take the win. Meanwhile, in Uniondale, Taylor Hall broke a Wayne Gretzky record by scoring two goals eight seconds apart to give the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 lead going in to the second period, but the Islanders were able to come back in the second period and hold on for the win.
If there's an aspect of the Islanders game that is consistent, the team can find a way to score. They are currently tied for fourth in the NHL in even strength goals scored (16) and are a respectable 12th (21.7%) on the power play. They average three goals per game. Newly-appointed captain John Tavares leads the team with nine points, and four players (Tavares, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, and Josh Bailey) are all producing at a point-per-game pace. The Canes would also be well-served to keep an eye on Matt Moulson, who had three goals and seven points against the Canes last season and is a career point-per-game producer (17 points in 16 games). Where the Islanders have concern is maintaining momentum for a full sixty minutes (sound familiar?) and protecting a lead heading into the late stages of a game. They are decent (12th) limiting goals against, and solid in net. Evgeni Nabokov is 3-1-2 with a 2.25 GAA and .925 save percentage. Nabokov also has an impressive history against the Hurricanes, with a 8-1-2 record and 2.11 GAA in twelve games.
In order to beat the Islanders, the Hurricanes are going to have to up their goal production, plain and simple. So, while we're pondering impressive scoring stats:
Alexander Semin: 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points
Eric Staal: 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
Jiri Tlusty: 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
If I were to say those were the top line's stats through eight games this season, they would look pretty darn good. But as we know, they are not, as the trio has accounted for only seven total points (5 goals, 2 assists) thus far. Those stats are the points the top line produced in three games against the Islanders last season. Suffice it to say that a good scoring effort from any one or all three would be welcome at this juncture.
(Side note: One other impressive player last season vs. the Isles, Jordan Staal with 2 goals and 3 assists, just in case tonight's the night he happens to find his scoring touch).
The Canes stayed in Toronto overnight Thursday and did not practice prior to traveling to Long Island yesterday afternoon. So, if there are any changes in the line-up they won't be known until the morning skate at 11:30 am. The website still shows the depth chart as of the start of Thursday's game. Jiri Tlusty returned to the top line during the third period Thursday and if I were the betting kind I'd lay odds for him to start there tonight, which means Tuomo Ruutu will shift down to the second or third line. Elias Lindholm (upper body) could return but as of yesterday was "unlikely". Kirk Muller mentioned before the Toronto game that Mike Komisarek will get the opportunity to play in front of his home crowd tonight, so another defenseman will need to sit out.
Tim Gleason (concussion) is skating with the team but is still at least a week away from return, and Anton Khudobin (lower body) appears to be making good progress in his recovery.
Cam Ward is 16-3-3 career versus the Islanders with a 2.38 GAA and one shutout.
The Islanders did not practice yesterday either, and there has been no indication of changes in their lineup (posted here from Thursday's game courtesy of Lighthouse Hockey). The Islanders have no injuries to report.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you there.