The New York Islanders continue their Western death march with a visit to Los Angeles tonight, in one of those 10:30 starts for the Eastern time zone.
After running the same lineup and goaltender for the last three games -- two overtime losses and a game that steadily got away via special teams in St. Louis -- the Isles will start Kevin Poulin and play rookie Brock Nelson in place of Peter Regin, a healthy scratch.
Poulin and Anders Nilsson both see their entry level deals expire this summer, so this time with Evgeni Nabokov on IR at least gives us and the team that evaluation period.
Scroll below for some insights on the Isles from tonight's opponent.
What The Kings Say
Darryl Sutter has evidently seen the Isles and Penguins do track meets:
Top-end two lines, for sure. Got to be able to handle ‘em. If you don’t, you’re going to get in an up and down game, a river game, and they’re good at that.
Drew Doughty has faced their top lines a few times:
They’re a fast team. They’ve got a lot of skill up front. They’re going to be good on the rush. They’re not going to be a team that really cycles you and is physical doiwn low, but they’re going to be fast on the rush. They’re going to create plays off the rush. They’ve got a lot of skilled guys, so there’s a lot of them we’ve got to pay attention to.
Doughty also knows who John Tavares is:
I’ve known John for a long time and played against him since I was a little kid. He’s so good around the net. If he gets a shot anywhere in that offensive zone, it’s usually going to go in. So he’s someone you’ve got to pay special attention to, obviously, and he’s a good playmaker, too. I think their team kind of evolves around how he’s playing. If we can take him out of the game, it should give us a lot of help.
Sutter also had an interesting answer about the Blues using "bottom six" guys against the Isles top two lines. He notes something that the most neurotic matchup watchers among us could take to heart (emphasis mine):
Well, with the schedule in the west, you don’t really call ‘em ‘bottom six.’ You’ve got to be able to play four lines, and there are nights when you get caught, and quite honest we did it on the weekend two or three shifts also where you don’t get the right guys on the ice just because other guys are bagged, quite honest. You need to have a really good balance right through your lineup out here. You’ve got to trust your players on that, but at the same time sometimes they’re overmatched.
I do believe Jack Capuano uses his fourth liners too much on several nights, but that doesn't mean every instance is an example of him trying to eject your firstborn into the sun.
Grabner Tries to Keep On
Meanwhile, poor snakebitten Michael Grabner -- who hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway when it was still 0-0 in St. Louis -- is a perfect representation of the Islanders right now: Underperforming, not meeting previous standards, with fragile confidence but not actually playing poorly as the record shows. His quote in Newsday:
"If I score on that first chance, I think it's a whole different game," Grabner said. "I have to keep skating, keep working and keep getting the chances. If one goes in, maybe that starts something."
Some time it will happen, probably. But tonight? The Kings would have to seriously mess up.
The Kings are expected to start Martin Jones. Here are their projected lines via LA Kings Insider:
Dwight King – Anze Kopitar – Jeff Carter
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Jordan Nolan – Mike Richards – Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford – Linden Vey – Matt Frattin
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell – Alec Martinez
Leave your first Islanders goal picks for tonight over here. And tune in tomorrow morning for the autopsy!
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