Islanders Preview: Here come the Habs

Playing the entirety of the season so far without Mark Streit has obviously hurt the Islanders as feared, but can we count the ways? You've lost a minute-muncher, a strong two-way guy, a powerplay cog. You've also lost an insightful breakout passer whose absence forced every other defenseman to play up a slot (or two, or three, as other injuries mounted) against tougher competition, where the goal can be just to survive rather than take control and drive the play.

It certainly hasn't helped that the Islanders forwards have also struggled to score, either. But take a quick look at the Islanders blueline production minus Streit, and the Canadiens minus Andrei Markov, who has missed all but seven games this year:

Defense G A Pts ES Pts
Islanders 5 38 43 25
Canadiens 11 48 59 38

*Notes: This is through 35 GP for the Habs, 32 for the Isles. The Habs total includes 1G, 2A (2 ESP) from Markov.

On the blueline, the Isles' leading point-collector by far is James Wisniewski (19 points), he of the minus-18 (against lighter matchups), who rattled off 12 points right at the start when the powerplay and the team overall was working. No other Islander defenseman has more than 5 points. For the Habs, ex-Isle Roman Hamrlik leads the way with 16 points, but Jaroslav Spacek has 12 and recently scratched phenom P.K. Subban has 11.

How much is Mark Streit missed? He has put up 105 points in 156 games as an Islander. Again, it helps the blueline totals that the Habs' powerplay is better (19.3 vs. 15.2%), and their overall offensive tide (2.63 GF/GP vs. 2.25 for the Isles) might lift all boats. But the Habs were much better equipped to withstand a devastating injury to their #1 than were the Isles.

Another sign of the Habs' blueline depth? Fan whipping-boy Ryan O'Byrne (remember how mercilessly fans jumped him after that own goal for the Isles?) who has a large frame and potential, was discarded to the Avalanche this year and has shined ever since, logging nearly 21 minutes and a +13 in the league's tougher conference.

Contrast that with the fact youngsters Andrew MacDonald (who missed six weeks) and Travis Hamonic recently formed the Isles' strongest pair.

Mon-lowc_medium                   Oldnyi_medium
Montreal Canadiens (20-13-2) @ New York Islanders (8-18-6)
7 p.m. EST | Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
MSG+, RDS - NHL audio,
WRHU 88.7
Eyes on the Habs:
Habs Eyes on the Prize | Habs Inside/Out

Putting this preview up a little early thanks to the holiday. As I'm visiting a lot with family this weekend, I still can't get my thoughts off of the Pierre Turgeon family, who lost their twin daughter Elizabeth suddenly at age 18. Pierre coached her club team, and the USA U-18 winger was reportedly a freshman at U. of Minnesota. With Pierre Turgeon being a beloved former member of both of tonight's competing clubs -- and if there is another busload of Habs fans in attendance -- hopefully there is a small gesture at tonight's game.

Lineup Topics

  • No word on Matt Moulson, who suffered what appeared to be a head injury thanks to the upper arm of Anton Volchenkov in the 5-1 win over the Devils. (No word either during this holiday break, on whether the hit will be reviewed.)
  • Speaking of league discipline, Matt Martin returns from suspension for this one. Jesse Joensuu was reassigned to Bridgeport, but it's theoretically possible that becomes just a paper move if Moulson can't go. However, the Islanders went with seven defensemen last game while Trevor Gillies was a healthy scratch.
  • And on the topic of injuries, by my count Rick DiPietro would be eligible to come off IR for this game if they saw fit. Not that if I were boss I'd start him for this one anyway.

While the Isles are suddenly on a 3-0-1 little roll, the Habs recently lost three in a row for the first time this season, lost four in a row on the road, and had dropped five of six, all regulation. That's still good for first in the Northwest, however, and they entered the holiday mini-break with a win at Carolina.

Ahead: The Islanders have four games this week, including Monday at the Garden and New Year's Eve in Detroit, the Habs are on a seven-game road stretch that continues this week with games at Washington and both Florida teams. Suffice to say, neither team gets to let those Christmas meals digest very long.

FIGs

Shake off that holiday meal and pick your FIG (First Islanders Goal) -- but you might want to wait until lineup news is announced. And in any case, remember to leave your pick as a REPLY to the first person to post a FIG comment.

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