Fourth-line talk is all the rage in this one: The Islanders have tweaked their lines to put Brock Nelson on the top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, which means the former grinder-heavy checking line has lost its Matt Martin. The Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck line now has speedy Cory Conacher (previously of L1) on its wing.
San Jose's fourth line also just got an infusion of talent: After struggling to produce since returning from the knee injury he suffered last year, Tomas Hertl gets dropped down to San Jose's fourth line for this one.
In seeking to bust his slump, Hertl will have neither the old 4th-line combo nor Brian Strait to target. Strait sits for Travis Hamonic's return, and the new combos offer a little more balance on the Islanders' bottom six (as well as hopefully strengthening the all-important line one).
For non-locals, not the TV coverage; this one was "flexed" to NBC Sports (so, not through your normal Center Ice feed, presumably).
This is a rare quick rematch between East and West: The Isles won via shootout a couple of weeks ago at Nassau Coliseum. And of course, last December in San Jose they pulled out a shootout win on Kevin Poulin's miraculous 46 saves.
If Jaroslav Halak pulls off a similar performance tonight, it would not be a miracle -- but it would be a refreshing change from how his first six games as an Islander have gone (.889, 3.51, 3-3).
Tonight, for a change, both teams enter the contest thinking they're pretty good. The Isles are 2nd in the Metro on 12 points; San Jose is tied with three other teams at 14 points for second in the Pacific.
Welcome Back, Hammer
Coach Jack Capuano on Travis Hamonic:
"You look at when he's in our lineup, we get a little more diversified on the back end with our options and what we can do, especially on the penalty kill, even our second-unit power play," Capuano said. "He's a leader for us, not only on the ice but obviously in the room."
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. Don't pick Strait.