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New York Islanders vs. Arizona Coyotes Preview: Isles aim for a winning road trip

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No pressure. You miss this putt, we lose.

Olli and Cal.
Olli and Cal.
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

After the New York Islanders pulled off consecutive extra-time wins in a back-to-back in southern California, they took the day off in Phoenix Glendale Arizona to await the Coyotes...who played in Anaheim last night.

The Coyotes were down 2-0 last night before coming back with two goals in a 58-second span, then taking the Ducks to grueling defeat-by-shootout. That makes three consecutive wins for the Coyotes and Mike Smith, who made 37 saves and is expected to start again tonight.

Smith and the Coyotes have struggled early this season, but the three wins in a row have brought them back to a more calming 6-6-1.

Islanders (8-5, 2nd/Metro) @ Coyotes (6-6-1, 6th/Pacific)
8 p.m. EST | MSG+ | WRHU
[jobs or casinos or city councils-dot-com] Arena
Still Howlin': Five for Howling

The Islanders are themselves coming off a rebound from troubling times. When they finished their pre-Western deathmarch homestand with a missed-opportunity loss to Winnipeg, and followed it up with a blowout loss in Colorado, the panic set into the fanbase with the two-headed gremlin of November and California staring them in the face.

"We went on a three-game skid and everybody wanted to hit the panic button," Kyle Okposo said. "Not in here, though. We're not the same team we've been."

But they played better in San Jose (despite losing a game that was tied halfway through the third) and then pulled off OT and shootout wins against the Ducks and Kings, respectively.

"If we can win Saturday, it’ll turn out to be a pretty good road trip," Frans Nielsen said. "It looked pretty bad for a while there, but it’s good to see the guys step up after those first two games."

Suddenly tonight they can finish this trip with a winning record. Or re-activate the panic.

Sources of Panic, Nov. 8 Edition

It's already risky to dress a fourth line that features both Matt Martin and Eric Boulton around Casey Cizikas, but it has meant limited minutes for that line. Sounds like they'll be back out there again, with Cory Conacher continuing to take the healthy scratch.

So the new force of unsettling panic is that the defense will be a "gametime decision," one that is at least publicly claimed to be based on personnel rather than health/injury:

For those unfamiliar with the Islanders, restored health on the blueline has finally created an ideal six of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky, and Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic. Brian Strait saw games -- and struggled -- before the injured blueliners returned, while Matt Donovan hasn't played in a single game this season.

So if there is any "personnel decision"-based change tonight, there will be angst. And even if there's not, the puzzlement is already out there.

Power Play Personnel: It Depends

Speaking of puzzlement, people have often wondered why Boychuk, who scored a couple of goals early (and bounced some off Brock Nelson) did not have a permanent place on the top power play unit after incumbent Lubomir Visnovsky returned. Jack Capuano was asked about that:

If you look back the past two years we had a top-10 power play in the league with Visnovsky on it. We’ve got a couple of different looks. It’s a good thing to have that depth and two good units, but that’s not to say we won’t change moving forward.

It all depends on who we are playing, what the prescout is and how the opposition is killing penalties. O if we’re in a 2-3, or a 1-3-1. You have to look at the scenarios of what they’re doing.

Wait! You're not allowed to look at video and scout opponents and make decisions! That counters our narrative! NHL15!!!1

The Isles go for their third win in a row tonight. It's a team they can beat, even if Shane Doan kills someone with a dirty hit because "he just wants to win that much."

Coyotes Scuttlebutt

From Elliotte Friedman's latest 30 Thoughts column:

Whenever Keith Yandle’s name surfaces in rumours, I go back to an old Maloney line about him: "If we trade him, you will (hear the deal) and understand why." The only difference now is his contract, which only has one more year. Does that change the dynamic? The Coyotes know so much of their offence comes in transition from he and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. If they do it, can they replace what he brings now, or is that step one of a long-term build?

Expected lines:

8 Tobias Rieder - 50 Antoine Vermette - 19 Shane Doan
36 Rob Klinkhammer - 11 Martin Hanzal - 10 Martin Erat
28 Lauri Korpikoski - 9 Sam Gagner - 89 Mikkel Boedker
22 Brandon McMillan - 14 Joe Vitale - 44 B.J. Crombeen

23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson - 4 Zbynek Michalek
3 Keith Yandle - 5 Connor Murphy
33 Brandon Gormley - 26 Michael Stone

This will be Michalek's 500th (regular season) NHL game.

First Islanders Goal Picks

Who will score first? Hopefully someone. Leave your picks here. Don't pick Conacher.