The New York Islanders hope to keep on rolling through December -- yes, in 2014 December, like November, is suddenly something they can "roll" through -- as they meet the Montreal Canadiens for the first time this season.
Though the Isles have had success against the Habs recently -- last Aprils "Bridgeport beats Montreal" moment was typical of some of their recent "that shouldn't happen" encounters -- this is the first time in a while where the Isles should rightly be considered the favorites.
The goaltending matchup, however, might change that equation.
Canadiens (21-11-2, 1st/New Atlantic) @ Islanders (23-10, 2nd/Metro)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (Where?!) | WRHU/WRCN
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Eyes on the Opposition: Habs Eyes on the Prize
After he played both games of a back-to-back weekend sweep, Jaroslav Halak is receiving another "maintenance" day. Both yesterday and today he was on the ice, but yesterday it was for specific work before Mike Dunham took his spot in the regular practice.
Today he'll be dressed, but Chad Johnson will start tonight, and Kevin Poulin has been recalled on emergency conditions.
Hopefully Halak gets some healing, er, rest as the Isles don't play again until Saturday in Buffalo. Hopefully Johnson makes us happy to say, "I'm Chad Johnson."
Coach Jack Capuano and Johnson talked about the suddenly rare start for the Isles backup. Via John Kreiser at nhl.com:
Capuano said he doesn't expect the two weeks between games to affect Johnson.
"It's tough when you go a little bit of an extended time and you don't play," he said. "He's been in that situation before with [Tuukka] Rask [with the Boston Bruins]. I expect he'll go out and give us a chance to win."
Johnson is eager to show he deserves more playing time.
"Obviously, the Minnesota game was not a good one," he said. "That's in the past. I'm looking forward to having a big game tonight. I'm excited to get back in there."
The Wild game in question was one where both the team and the goalie faltered. The Isles "let up on the gas," so to speak, in blowing a 3-0 lead. But Johnson's swimming in the crease -- and the teammates who didn't help clear the traffic -- did not stave off the bleeding.
Anyway, the goalie switch is the only lineup change for the Isles, unless you count the lost cells from John Tavares' ear.
A Bit about the Habs
Like the Islanders, the Habs have a rather admirable group of six defensemen when all healthy, though Sergei Gonchar is a bit of an elder and his partner Alexei Emelin is a bit of a suspect beyond that whole "mean Russian crushes people" attribute.
Despite their high standing this season, there is some concern it won't last, in part because of their middle-of-the-road underlying numbers. Still, the Canadiens are at the top of their division, a consistent threat, have a sizzling top line and a game changer in P.K. Subban. The latter, and the suspicion that they're not being deployed optimally, is weighed in the latest daily links at Eyes on the Prize.
Alleged Lines (via nhl.com):
Max Pacioretty – Alex Galchenyuk – Brendan Gallagher
Sven Andrighetto – Tomas Plekanec – Jiri Sekac
David Desharnais - Lars Eller – Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
Brandon Prust – Manny Malhotra – Dale Weise
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Sergei Gonchar
Nathan Beaulieu – Tom Gilbert
Ol' PAP Remembers
The Isles, good and dangerous? Ol' friend P.A. Parenteau says he saw it coming, via the Habs official site:
"They had so many good young players in their system. They have one of the best players in the league in Tavares. They acquired two good defensemen before the season began [in Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk]. That gave them a boost, too," mentioned Parenteau, who registered 38 goals and 120 points in 161 career regular-season games with the Islanders. "They’re a good hockey team. We’ll have to be ready for them, for sure."
Also, though he won't face his former crease mate tonight, Carey Price is happy to see Halak being a happy Halak:
"It’s always good to see a friend and a former teammate do well. He kind of bounced around a little bit, but he seems to have really found his groove there," offered Carey Price, who, like Halak, has 18 wins to his credit in 2014-15. "I haven’t watched a whole lot of their games to be honest. I know the addition of those pretty big quality defensemen back there really helped their team. They’ve got a lot of talent up front. Jaro’s playing well. Hopefully, they’ll bring out the best in us."
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Not all fans appreciate it, but Meg Ryan and Anders Lee enjoy the chant many Isles fans have adopted after goals. After Lee scored the late winner over the Lightning last game, he did a little Yes! gesture as the players skated off the ice. He explains:
We all like it. All the guys in the locker room enjoy it and to see the fans do that after we score, the place was rocking on Saturday so it was kind of fun to do that with the fans.
HOW DARE YOU HAVE FUN?!
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight this way. Don't pick Halak.