The January 19 meeting in Brooklyn marked a couple of firsts: Doug Weight’s debut as Islanders head coach and John Tavares’ first career shorthanded goal. Tonight’s contest will feature two more firsts, as Islander rookie forward Josh Ho-Sang makes his NHL debut and recently-acquired Stars defenseman Greg Pateryn dons the Victory Green jersey.
Ho-Sang, the Isles’ first-round draft pick in 2014, made the jump from major junior to the pros this season. In 48 games with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he has 10 goals and 36 points and was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for February. Ho-Sang will wear number 66 for the Islanders.
Pateryn, a right-handed defenseman, came down from Montreal in the Jordie Benn trade. A native of Sterling Heights, Michigan, he joins Stephen Johns as the only Americans on the Stars’ roster. Pateryn will skate in the 83rd game of his NHL career tonight and wear number 29 on his back.
Perhaps the most-anticipated change to the Stars’ lineup will come at forward, as Ales Hemsky has been cleared to play. Hemsky suffered a lower-body injury during September’s World Cup and subsequently didn’t make his season debut until October 22. The Czech winger aggravated the injury during the game against Columbus and needed hip surgery. He’s been skating for about six weeks now and is eager to get into a game.
The Islanders, who haven’t played since taking a 7-0 beating in Columbus last Saturday, are in a tight battle with the Maple Leafs, Panthers, Lightning and Flyers for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Stars, meanwhile, are 3-1-0 in their last four games and have an opportunity to damage the Isles’ playoff hopes tonight.
New York Islanders at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, MSG+ 2
2016-17 Season Series: Jan. 19 – Islanders 3, Stars 0
New York Islanders: 29-22-10 – 68 Points
Road Record: 9-14-4
Hot Players: John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Thomas Greiss
Key Injuries: Travis Hamonic, Casey Cizikas, Alan Quine, Anthony Beauvillier and Mikhail Grabovski
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Jason Chimera – Ryan Strome – Shane Prince
Andrew Ladd – Brock Nelson – Josh Ho-Sang
Nikolai Kulemin – Stephen Gionta – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin De Haan – Dennis Seidenberg
Thomas Hickey – Scott Mayfield
Dallas Stars: 25-28-10 – 60 Points
Home Record: 18-10-6
Hot Players: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Antoine Roussel and John Klingberg
Key Injuries: Adam Cracknell and Mattias Janmark
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Brett Ritchie
Patrick Sharp – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Devin Shore – Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Jamie Oleksiak
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns
1) Antti Niemi was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, so he appears to be the Stars’ starter against the Isles. Niemi stopped 18 of 20 shots, including several big saves, in the Stars’ 3-2 win over the Penguins Tuesday.
2) When a player doesn’t perform according to expectations, fans and even the media often denigrate the player without stopping to question why he’s playing poorly. Hemsky talked about it Wednesday, explaining why he chose surgery over playing through the injury.
“I wouldn’t be able to skate and just play my game how I want to, how I played last year,” said Hemsky. “And then everybody’s judging you. It’s not easy, you know? If you’re playing, everybody thinks you’re fine. Nobody thinks about whether you have some little problem or whatever.”
3) Adam Cracknell may be a mutant, a la “Wolverine” of X-Men fame; he’s certainly got Wolverine’s quick-healing powers. When Cracknell was injured against Tampa Bay February 18, Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he’d miss 3-to-6 weeks. Following the five-day break, Ruff upgraded Cracknell’s prognosis to 2-to-3 weeks. Yesterday, 11 days after Cracknell was injured, GM Jim Nill put the journeyman forward’s recovery at 3-to-5 days. While he’ll be in the press box again tonight, Cracknell could play on the Stars’ upcoming road trip to Florida and Washington.
4) After being reminded yesterday about Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager/emergency backup goalie Jorge Alves, THW asked Stars assistant equipment manager Dennis Soetaert today if he was the emergency backup in Dallas. Soetaert, whose father, Doug, is a retired NHL goalie, laughed and said he’s not, but he’s thinking about getting some pads and practicing, just in case.