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New York Islanders vs. St. Louis Blues: Greiss starts, Tarasenko healthy

Clash of titans? Or just two blue teams?

Grabbo winner.
Grabbo winner.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders will try to keep the good times (4-0-1) rolling tonight against a strong but line-juggling opponent in the St. Louis Blues.

Unfortunately for the Isles, Vladimir Tarasenko (ill earlier this week) will make the game. However, he will have a new (yet familiar) linemate in Jori Lehtera. The Blues actually only have one regulation loss in their last six games (3-1-2), but their offense has been very top-heavy and they're coming off a clunker at home against Florida.

So they have some reshuffled lines and defensive pairs they'll be debuting tonight, plus a different starting goalie in Brian Elliott -- his first start in 17 days. Lehtera, who has often centered Tarasenko (who himself is the main reason Lehtera came over from the KHL) will be on Tarasenko's opposite wing centered by Paul Stastny.

The Blues tend to mix up their top six fairly frequently, but Lehtora on wing is a new look for them.

Islanders (14-8-4) vs. Blues (15-7-3)
7:30 p.m. EST | MSG+ (with Jiggs!),
Brooklyn's [ingloriously sponsored] Center
St. Louis Game Time

In their previous meeting this season, the Islanders won in overtime on a Mikhail Grabovski goal, though they were outplayed for concerning stretches and ended up coughing up a 2-0 lead they took into the third period.

In terms of, "hey, you just wasted a gift," that was a far better outcome than about a year ago at the Coliseum, when the Isles were staked to a 3-0 lead but blew that as Blues Hall of Fame goaltender and one-time Devil Martin Brodeur entered in relief to notch the first victory in his storied Blues career. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some painful but amusing reflections on that:

"It was like, 'OK, our dad is coming to play,'" Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It was really interesting because our team was just dead. We were tired and we weren't playing. It was a long night before and (Brodeur coming in) just seemed to energize us. All of the sudden guys are blocking shots, guys are doing whatever it takes...

Tonight, all I know is if the Islanders get a multi-goal lead, I'll be dreading the worst or else an absurd overturning of a Vanek OT winner.

That Post-Dispatch/stltoday update from Jeremy Rutherford also has Hitchcock's impression of the current Isles squad:

"They're fun to watch," Hitchcock said. "They've got four lines, they've got an identity, they get up the ice hard. That Ranger game, for me, was one of the best games I've seen all year. They've got a real team. It seems like every line has a personality."

See there? The Isles have a real team and personality!

One more great quote from Hitchcock, also from that Rutherford piece, on when the two physical fourth lines match up tonight:

"Our plan is when the two lines come out, we'll just take the puck off the ice and play, and then we'll just put it back on when those two lines finish going at each other," Hitchcock said.

Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck vs. Ott-Brodziak-Reaves should be fun.

The Isles lineup remains the same except with Thomas Greiss getting the start; figure Jaroslav Halak will be in net tomorrow night in Ottawa.

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