After a 2-1 swing through California, the New York Islanders are back home again to face a fourth Pacific team. The Arizona Coyotes get their first taste of Barclays Center tonight, when they -- like the hosts -- will have a few lineup changes.
The Coyotes will have Anders Lindback in goal, with defenseman Philip "Son Of" Samuelsson making his season debut. Samuelsson played youth hockey in Arizona while his father, the knee-hunting former NHLer, was a coach with the Coyotes. Originally with the Penguins, Philip, 24, appeared in four games with the Coyotes last season.
The Coyotes and normal starter Mike Smith were torched by the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Saturday, but they remain what most see as a surprising second place in the Pacific Division. A big reason for that is the exciting young duo of 20-year-olds, Max "The Talented" Domi and Anthony Duclair, the latter being the chief spoils from the Rangers' latest get-rich-quick scheme.
After Thomas Greiss backed both victories in California, the losing goalie in L.A. -- albeit with just two tough goals allowed -- Jaroslav Halak is back in net for the Islanders. Also back in the lineup is 38-year-old Marek Zidlicky, who was scratched in Anaheim for rookie Adam Pelech but will play his 800th career NHL game.
That decision makes it sound like Pelech's single appearance the other night was more about getting Zidlicky a rest, and Pelech an NHL debut for his travels, than any kind of larger strategic shift. Here is Jack Capuano, quoted by Brian Compton at NHL.com:
"[Pelech] played a great game, obviously. He's going to continue to play games for us. The back-to-back nights, we do what we do. [Zidlicky] will go back in."
With both goalies going strong, the topic among the Islanders' less-than-inspiring start to their 2014-15 follow-up has been offensive struggles. Those abated somewhat on the trip to California, where they notched four goals each in the wins over San Jose and Anaheim. But the doctor is still watching the patient.
Amid the offensive ebbs and flows, and the demotion of Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson was all zen and philosophical about it. Also from Compton's post:
"A couple of pucks have gone in when I shot it," Nelson said. "John's had a couple of goals go in just off simple plays. Just shooting the puck, trying to get open. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I had one go off the post in L.A.; sometimes that goes in. Just different bounces."
And later, on Strome's demotion:
I don't think anybody here took it personally but a lot of guys knew maybe we needed to play a little bit better. I think guys have stepped up.
Anyway, after the prototypical tonic of the road trip, the Isles are back for a long but inactive week at home: After tonight's game, their next one isn't until Friday and a chance for revenge against the visiting Habs.
Just like you don't want to fly across the country on a losing note, you don't want to sit at home for a week with the sting of a loss, now do you?
Leave your First Islander Goal picks for tonight here. But no more West Coast slacking -- get them in by game time, which is back to 7 p.m. again.