New York Islanders vs. Winnipeg Jets Preview: Top lines, and injured D

When Andrews collide. - Bruce Bennett

Let's really try to win this one, guys.

The Winnipeg Jets did the New York Islanders a favor this week, beating the Isles' Metro partners-in-meh New Jersey Devils in regulation.

Now the Isles have a chance to rudely make that favor pay off.

They are last in the Metro, but five points shy of third and four shy of New Jersey's fourth spot. Things have felt horrid lately, yet rescue is attainable.

Tonight's game is the beginning of a four-game homestand for the Islanders, who need to shake off what has become an all-too-familiar Woevember, including another winless road trip.

Win-oldslim_medium Nyi-islestickslim_medium
Jets (11-11-4, 7th/Central) @ Islanders (8-13-3, 8th/Metro)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (twice the plus!) | WRHU/WRCN
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Jets 'n Airplane: Arctic Ice Hockey

Islanders Notes

Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Hickey are both fighting injuries, but they will be in tonight's lineup.

So too will Aaron Ness, Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Buchard, healthy scratch replacements for Radek Martinek, Eric Boulton, and Colin McDonald.

Brock Nelson, who played his first NHL game at center last time, reportedly took lots of faceoffs at practice this week. Could he be taking Regin's 3C spot soon, if not tonight?

Winnipeg's press, as they usually do, focus on local boy Travis Hamonic and his chances for the Olympic team:

Hamonic was one of 17 defencemen invited to the summer orientation camp, at the time with 183 games of NHL regular-season experience.

"Did I feel like I belonged? Honestly I did," Hamonic said. "I'd be lying to say I wasn't nervous when I first got off the plane. I definitely was. But hockey's one of those sports that the guys you don't know, you get to know pretty quick. And it was good to see guys you do know -- it rekindles friendships.

"As far as on the ice and belonging, yeah, I feel like I do. I feel like I've done some pretty good things in the league."

Of course, Isles fans don't want to hear about the Olympics right now. Few also want to hear signs of "it's not SO bad," but they're there: At open play, 5-on-5 rate stats, the Islanders are marginally better or closely matched with the Jets. Contrary to recent history, the Jets have received goaltending that the Isles still have not.

Jets Context

The Jets come in for the second of a six-game road trip -- their longest of the season -- that takes them through their old Eastern Conference haunts. Though the switch to the GC (geographically correct) Western Conference gives them the travel relief they sought, it sure hasn't set them up to succeed: The move from the NHL's worst to the NHL's best division means the Jets' 26 points are good for last place in the Central Division.

It would put them in a tie for second in the Metro.

So the Jets are a dangerous enough team, as the Isles have experienced first-hand in recent years. They have a nice top line (that's without Evander Kane, remember) -- this is where our stories overlap -- but usually questionable goaltending. Ex-Isle Al Montoya gets the start tonight. Fortunately for the Isles, still without key defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, the Jets are missing their own in Zach Bogosian.

Their coach comes under fire whenever things go sour. Here is Claude Noel explaining mid-game line shuffles in their flawed (and arguably lucky) win over the Devils:

Some folks were curious why Jets head coach Claude Noel would shuffle his lines during the third period while holding a 2-0 lead, but it turns out the answer was simple and made a lot of sense.

"I just didn’t enjoy spending too much time in our zone," said Noel. "Sometimes when you juggle lines like that, it forces players to talk a little bit more and it gets them engaged and more focused. Sometimes it backfires, but for the most part it worked okay.

"We needed to check better, that’s what I was thinking."

Out of the proverbial "comfort zone," it seems. Keep players from falling into the habit of punching the clock.

Reasons Hockey is Great

The Jets have some of the best hockey names in the league, so enjoy: Byfuglien, Clitsome, Trouba, Thorburn, Frolik, Halischuk, Scheifele, Setoguchi, Jokinen -- all enjoyable for different reasons. And that's before getting to Montoya, who will avenge his father yet.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over yonder. Standings will be updated again after the weekend. At last count, martyInd is making a mockery of this (hmmm...gee, I wonder if he chooses Tavares every time? #publicshaming):

23 - martylnd
13 - jjbiii
10 - Isle in Dixie
9 - Mulligan
8 - Dan VA
8 - DoctorOsty
8 - tm
8 - Torgo
8 - zack779
7 - 19holekc
7 - Cheepnis
7 - Dirtyisle
7 - dunnowhat2type

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