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New York Islanders vs. Edmonton Oilers Preview: Which team is better?

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We already miss you, Ben Eager.
We already miss you, Ben Eager.
Bruce Bennett

The Edmonton Oilers won three draft lotteries in a row (two of them fully earned by last-place finishes) and finished the lockout-shortened season 10 points short of a playoff spot.

The New York Islanders finished annoyingly just beyond golden lottery territory three seasons in a row before making their first playoff appearance since 2007 last spring.

One team has three #1 picks, an established star, and some no-names. The other team has one #1 pick, one other anonymous star, and some burgeoning knowable names. The former is 1-5-1, last in its division. The latter is 2-2-2, a technically playoff-level position in its currently laughable division.

Which team is better?

Edm-slim_medium Nyi-islim_medium
Oilers (1-5-1) @ Islanders (2-2-2)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+ | Audio: WRHU/WRCN
Copping & Blue: The Copper & Blue

I'm certain the result of this game will conclusively prove the answer -- particularly if it ends in the Great Decider mechanism known as the shootout.

Okay, not so much. But small samples acknowledged, the Oilers have this thing where their 5-on-5 save percentage is an absurdly worst in the league right now at .871. That's bound to change. Devyn Dubnyk is a fine goalie, unless the equipment (including paddle length) changes have altered him beyond repair. The Islanders are at .923.

More Contrasts

By possession numbers, the Oilers look better with a Fenwick-Close (their share of attempted shots at 5-on-5 with the score close) of 49.3%. The Islanders, who finished last season riding high in that category, are currently dead last at 43%.

Again, none of the above figures should last too long, but they reflect where these two teams are through the first handful of games -- less than 10% of the season -- and give us some things to watch tonight, whether it be goaltending or zone time and breakouts through the neutral zone.

Meanwhile, though Matt Martin does not have Ben Eager to goad into stupidity anymore, the Oilers do still have Mike Brown on their suddenly not-all-cement-hand fourth line. But with the fist swingers mostly sitting out, these two teams might just play lots of hockey tonight, with lots of speed and glaring defensive lapses.

One more point of comparison to watch: Justin Schultz led all AHL defensemen in points last year with a ridiculous 48 points in 34 games. Matt Donovan finally caught up with him after playing 75 games. Both are known for their offense but questioned for their defense, a concern that had Donovan scratched the last couple of games.

Lines

Tonight, Donovan is back in for Matt Carkner. Brian Strait remains despite his final regulation shift costing the Isles a regulation win against Buffalo.

Colin McDonald also returns to the lineup after a one-game layoff from a hip injury.

Taylor Hall - Mark Arcobello - Jordan Eberle
David Perron - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov
Ryan Smyth - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones - Will Acton - Mike Brown

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Anton Belov - Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz - Andrew Ference

Devan Dubnyk

The Islanders expected lineup based on recent practices and updates:

Michael Grabner - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen
Matt Moulson - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald
Lubomir Visnovsky - Thomas Hickey
Brian Strait - Matt Donovan

Evgeni Nabokov

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight over yonder.