New York Islanders (13-17-16) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (13-21-6)
7 p.m. RBC Center
It's a battle for the bottom of the Eastern Conference as the Hurricanes take on the New York Islanders. Both of these teams are in the "Fail for Nail" sweepstakes and if there is one team that's shown the dangers of using "tanking for a high draft pick" as a silver lining, it's the Islanders. This team has not made the playoffs in four (soon to be five) years and finished at the bottom of the Atlantic division in all of those year. During that time (and before that) they accumulated high draft picks like Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin De Hann, Kyle Okposo and Jesse Joensuu and despite that, they are still stuck at the bottom of the conference even though they should be improving on paper. The Islanders are the exact reason why I am worried for the Canes if they choose to completely blow up their core and rebuild from scratch again. Sure, it's worked for the Capitals, Blackhawks and Penguins but people need to remember that high draft picks are not always a sure thing when it comes to turning franchises around so there is a ton of risk involved with tanking. A high draft pick would help the Canes a lot but let's not pretend like that will fix all of our problems immediately.
As for the actual game tonight, we'll discuss that after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Dalpe
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - Ruutu
Bowman - Sutter - LaRose
Nodl - Brent - Stewart
Harrison - Faulk
Gleason - McBain
Allen - Spacek
Moulson - Tavares - Okposo
Rolston - Nielsen - Parenteau
Martin - Bailey - Grabner
Wallace - Reasoner - Niederrieter
Streit - Staios
Hamonic - MacDonald
Eaton - Jurcina
Getting to know the Islanders
The Islanders are a bottom-10 Fenwick-tied team and a sub .500 corsi team, so their record isn't too far off from what their true talent is but I can't help but feel that they shouldn't be this bad. They finished strong last year, should be getting at least league average goaltending with Evgeni Nabokov and have emerging talent in Tavares and Grabner but they still stiink in both the counting and underlying categories. What is the reason for this? For one, all of their goalies have been hurt at least once and they've seen the play of Grabner, Okposo (goalless through most of November) and Comeau (waived and claimed by Calgary) drop by a large amount this year. Tavares appears to be legit, though and he's helped made guys like Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau useful pieces in the Islanders system so that is one thing they have going for them. Defense might be what is keeping them back, because outside of Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic, there isn't much to brag about here. Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina aren't that effective outside of a depth role and they have Steve Staios as one of their tough minute defenders. If a team has to resort to that, you know their defense isn't that good. I do think that the Islanders will start to pull their way out of the cellar soon because their PDO is around 970 right now, and it can't stay that low forever even if the team isn't that good territorially.
- It's looking like Harrison/Faulk will stay on the shutdown pair and will be put up against the Tavares line, which is a pretty tough assignment when you consider that Tavares is their best player and is capable of making his linemates better. I'm of the belief that he is the reason why Matt Moulson has become a 30-goal scorer ever since the Islanders signed him. I wouldn't be surprise to see Okposo turn it around on this line either.
- The Islanders and Hurricanes aren't only next to each other in the standings, they are right next to each other in Fenwick tied ratings, too. The Hurricanes being right behind the Isles with a Fenwick tied score of 46.87% and the Islanders having a rate of 47.17%.
- Alexei Ponikarovsky had 13 shots on goal last week and did not score on a single one of them so if anyone is due for a goal, it's him. Probably Chad LaRose, too as he didn't score on 11 shots on goal last week.
- It is tough to stay loyal to the numbers when things are going tough and with the Hurricanes powerplay clicking at a rate of only 13.7%, things are going tough right now in that area. Keep in mind, they are still the top half of the league at getting shots on net with the man advantage so things will pick up soon. The two PP goals they scored are proof of that. Also, the Islanders powerplay has roughly the same amount of shots per 60 minutes as Carolina, but they are ranked 12th in the league in powerplay percentage while the Hurricanes are ranked 26th. Sometimes the shots go in and sometimes they don't.
Enjoy the game.