NHL Preview: Islanders at Maple Leafs

  • Tyler Race

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The New York Islanders are looking to win back-to-back games for just the second time this season, when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday night. The last time the team did that was back on November 1 and 2, with wins against Ottawa and Boston. The Islanders are coming off a 5-4 shootout victory over the Red Wings Saturday, but it was during that game when Islanders’ goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov, suffered a groin injury just 4:12 into the game.

In Saturday’s win, Frans Nielsen scored the game-winning goal in the shootout and captain John Tavares scored one goal and one assist, which increased Tavares’ point and assist streak to five games.

The 38-year-old veteran, Nabokov, sat out the previous three games due to injury, so his recent return did not last too long. A return date for Nabokov has yet to be determined, but is expected to miss a month or more of action, after being placed on the injured reserve list on Monday. Kevin Poulin took over for Nabokov, stopping 19 of 22 shots on goal. In his eight games played, Poulin is 3-5 and has allowed 20 goals. The Islanders have called up Anders Nilsson from AHL affiliate Bridgeport to serve as Poulin’s backup.

“He battles hard, he competes really hard,” Islanders captain John Tavares said about goalie Kevin Poulin. “He’s a confident guy and did a great job obviously in the shootout.”

On Tuesday, the Islanders announced that Michael Grabner will be a healthy scratch. Grabner has scored just two goal this season, both of which came on opening night. Gabner has not scored a point in his last 12 games since returning from his two-game suspension back in October.

Saturday’s win over the Red Wings gave the Islanders a 2-1 record on their three-game homestand and will play their next three games on the road, where they have a record of just 3-6 away from home. The Maple Leafs are a tough team to play against, as they stand at 7-2 at home and are beginning a four-game homestand.

Like the Islanders, the Maple Leafs are also looking to win consecutive games, after winning their last game against the Sabres. The Leafs lost their previous three games before getting the win on Saturday. Starting in goal for the Leafs is Johnathon Bernier, who is playing against the Islanders for the first time.

The Leafs made headlines recently with the acquiring of Peter Holland, from the Anaheim Ducks. Holland was placed on the top line along with  James Van Riemsdyk, who was moved to left wing–looking much more comfortable in the position than when he played right wing, scoring two goals against the Sabres on Saturday, his eighth and ninth goals of the season. Both of which occurred in the first period.

“I’m probably a little more comfortable playing there,” Van Riemsdyk said. “It allows me to do some different things.”

Tuesday’s game marks the first meeting between the two clubs. The Islanders have won the last three games, with their most recent win over the Leafs on April 18, when the Islanders picked up a 5-3 victory.

Injuries

Islanders: Thomas Vanek has missed the last four games and will still be sitting out Tuesday, too. Other injuries include; Nabokov(groin), Lubomir Visnovsky(concussion) and Brian Strait(upper body).

Maple Leafs: After practicing Monday, foward Tyler Bozak will not play due to a lower body injuries. Bozak is on the injured reserved list and not eligible to start until November 21. Other injuries for the Leafs include; Dave Bolland(ankle) and Mark Fraser(lower body). Bolland is on the injured reserved list, whereas Fraser is day-to-day.

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Tyler Race

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