The New York Islanders visit the Minnesota Wild for the first of a two-game trip through some tough Central Division opponents. This run of four against the Central continues through St. Louis and concludes Saturday when the Blackhawks visit the Coliseum.
The Wild are below the Winnipeg Jets. Let that sink in for a moment.
The source for this disarray is familiar one for Islanders fans of recent years, yet a surprising one for those two teams in particular: Minnesota's 5-on-5 save percentage is the worst in the league, a hair below .900, whereas Winnipeg -- home of the Generous Pavelec -- is .931, which ranks seventh. (For comparison, the Isles are tied for 19th at .917.)
This is a concern because the Wild are otherwise a top possession team, simply hindered by poor goaltending performances that they surely hope is just a funk.
The Star-Tribune preview blog went into the struggles of Darcy Kuemper, who has been used farm more than former number one Niklas Backstrom, who starts against the Isles tonight.
Meanwhile, the effort to de-funk Thomas Vanek includes moving him up to a top-six role again (a possible cause of funk: The feds actually having to answer how many millions he bet on sports), leaving team goal leader Nino Niederreiter on the third, where he is "still finding" the proverbial consistency.
Hockey coachspeak, everywhere.
Completing the round of former Isles (or properties), Jared Spurgeon was the team's minutes muncher while Ryan Suter was out with mumps, but Suter returns to the lineup tonight.
The official site preview has a nice and tidy overview of all the Isles notes you need, namely:
- Casey Cizikas is on IR; Josh Bailey re-enters the lineup; Ryan Strome slides down to Cizikas' spot as fourth-line center.
- Lubomir Visnovsky is activated and will reunite with Thomas Hickey.
Matt Donovan sits for Visnovsky. That means Griffin Reinhart and Calvin de Haan remain a pair.
Jaroslav Halak starts, hoping to start a new winning streak after giving up six against the Blues.
- Homecomings include Minnesota natives Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo and Nick Leddy.
Meanwhile, Lee is not suspended, but was fined for that unpenalized elbow against the Blues Saturday.
On Donovan, Jack Capuano's language will not please the Donos-before-Straits set:
Capuano on Donovan: "We need to see more from him... He needs to play so that when we're discussing the lineup, we can't take him out."
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 9, 2014