The New York Islanders look to get back on track as they host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Barclays Center Thursday night. The Islanders have now lost two straight games after going 5-0-1 in their previous six contests. The Isles once again find themselves alone in last place in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders will turn to Thomas Greiss in net while Chicago will again go with Scott Darling, who has been lights out since taking over for the injured Corey Crawford.
The Blackhawks have been inconsistent offensively this season and have scored 11 goals in their last six games. Four of those goals came in a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 6. Chicago hopes to get more offensive production now that Jonathan Toews has returned from the injury list earlier this week.
The Islanders have struggled with costly defensive zone breakdowns in the last two games that have led to extended zone time and quality scoring chances for opponents. Coach Jack Capuano expressed his frustration with his team’s play after Tuesday night’s loss to Washington. Without naming specific players, he indicated his team does not have all 20 active players putting in an adequate effort.
Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 7:00 PM EST
Broadcast Channels: MSG-Plus and CSN-Chicago
2016-17 Season Series: First Matchup of the Season
Chicago Blackhawks 19-8-4 – 42 points
Road Record: 7-6-1
Hot Players: Scott Darling, Marian Hossa
Key Injuries: Corey Crawford
Ryan Hartman – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Artemi Penarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen – Marcus Kruger – Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins – Vinnie Hinostroza – Jordan Tootoo
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell – Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling – Trevor van Riemsdyk
New York Islanders – 11-12-5 – 27 points
Home Record: 9-5-4
Hot Players: John Tavares, Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas
Key Injuries: Adam Pelech
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Shane Prince – Ryan Strome – Brock Nelson
Nikolay Kulemin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Andrew Ladd – Alan Quine – Jason Chimera
Nick Leddy – Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan – Dennis Seidenberg
1)The Blackhawks’ defense has been very strong recently. Chicago has allowed one goal or fewer in each of their last four games. Goalie Scott Darling has given up two or fewer goals in his last five starts.
2)The Blackhawks have been a strong third period team. They are outscoring opponents 27-20 in the final stanza and are 13-0-0 on the season when leading after two periods. The Islanders gave up six goals in the third period in their last two games without scoring any goals of their own.
3)The Islanders’ power play is ranked 29th in the league with a 12.7 percent success rate. They hope to take advantage of the Blackhawks’ NHL-worst penalty kill, which is successful only 72.7 percent of the time.
4)Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd have struggled to produce offensively this season since signing as free agents over the summer. Both players have had success against the Blackhawks and lead all active Islanders in assists and points when facing Chicago.
5)The Islanders lead the NHL with 543 blocked shots. They will need to prevent the potent Blackhawks lineup from getting too many shots through on Greiss if they hope to beat Chicago tonight.
The Islanders certainly have their hands full facing a perennial power like Chicago. Players like Kane, Hossa and Toews are more than capable of making the Islanders pay for any mistakes they make in their own zone. Offensively, the Islanders have to improve their secondary scoring if they hope to keep up with the Blackhawks and red-hot goalie Scott Darling.