No rest for the top of the Metropolitan Division. After a win last night in Pittsburgh, the New York Islanders made up one point and are now two points behind the Penguins -- thanks to the league's creative shootout accounting.
So tonight offers any number of point outcomes in the return match, with a revved up Coliseum crowd thirsty for a clean pair to pull the Isles even atop the division on a night when the franchise's greatest goaltender is honored.
Though the Isles won the first leg, it was only by shootout, and after holding a two-goal lead in the second period. As with most things in hockey, the margins are narrow and games can go either way with a bounce off Ryan Strome or Matt Martin's skate.
Jack Capuano sounded troubled by various parts of the team's game -- though also pleased that they're good enough to win without playing their best -- and brought up the familiar fear of a track meet against the Penguins:
"We don’t want to play that type of game, but as we showed the video to our guys this morning, our structure was good. They have some pretty good skills. We’re there, but we’re not there."
So the theme heading into tonight is the opportunity to take four points from the division leader they're chasing, and hopefully not share more regulation points in the process. To do that, they may very well need to be better than last night, or count on some good goaltending.
Capuano: "We showed we can play with them. Coming back here, how are we going to respond to that? This is where you learn about your team."— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) November 22, 2014
- Each team is alternating goalies for the second half of the back-to-back. Pittsburgh starts Thomas Greiss, while the Islanders re-insert Jaroslav Halak, who has won his past five starts.
- Craig Adams will play in his 900th NHL game.
- Matt Martin will play his 300th NHL game.
Marc-Andre Fleury is still looking for his 300th NHL win, but he won't get it unless things go wonderfully right and then horribly wrong.
Pre-Game Festivities: Battlin' Billy
It's Billy Smith Night, and fans get another look at the goalie legend as well as a Smith mini-locker. Smith spoke with media on all kinds of stories, old and new this morning.
Coach Jack Capuano also asked Smith to talk to the players:
"Three or four minutes of conversation with him is really enlightening," Capuano said. "I thought it was great. Not only did Billy get a chance to talk to our players, we had a three-minute video of when Billy played the game, and guys could get a sense, if they didn’t know, who he was. I’m glad our guys got a chance to interact with Billy and see that video."
If this doesn't work out for the Penguins, they'll have relief next weekend: a back-to-back home-and-home with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders will be finishing a home-and-home with Washington, then hosting New Jersey the next night.
Grabner Update: Not Yet
Grabner did not skate today. Capuano says they'll know more on Monday. Not looking like he'll be ready before Thanksgiving. #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) November 22, 2014
Don't believe Grabner not skating today meant a setback. Just a guy who missed all of training camp. No need to rush him back.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) November 22, 2014
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here. Much as you want to, don't pick Billy Smith.