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New York Islanders vs. Arizona Coyotes Gameday: Chad Johnson in as Metro nips Isles heels

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The Isles need to hand the Yotes their seventh loss in a row.

Sure Vanek is gone, but this photo of him being shot by Claudine Longet is too good to pass up.
Sure Vanek is gone, but this photo of him being shot by Claudine Longet is too good to pass up.
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The struggling Arizona Coyotes howl into Nassau Coliseum tonight, where a first-place New York Islanders team awaits. The game is an important one for the Isles, whose Metro lead is just two points, but today it felt almost secondary given the news about Nick Leddy.

The 23-year-old fantastically bearded defenseman did not exactly get a whole lot richer today, but his ability to take out a loan to buy a small island did greatly increase: A seven-year, $38.5 million contract that begins next season will do that.

Plenty more on Leddy there and later. But first, tonight it's back to business. (And meanwhile, of relevance tonight and every night: HockeyGoalieEh's post with individual numbers for every member of the Isles' awful PK unit.)

Coyotes (20-33-7, 6th/Pacific) @ Islanders (39-20-2, 1st/Metro)
7 p.m. EST | MSG the Regular |
WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Don't whine about owner history to them: Five For Howling

The Islanders ice the same lineup of 18 as in Sunday's 4-0 loss to Vancouver -- as telltale sign as any that win/loss "superstition" does not guide their lineup decisions. But there is a change in goal.

Chad Johnson gets his second start in three games, after Jaroslav Halak didn't hurt himself but didn't really save himself either in that loss. Personally, I think this is a good thing: First, Johnson has been better in his last couple of starts, and it's good to work him back into whatever his optimal form is. Second, Halak's history has been good in tandems where the other goalie is pushing for work. A little competition never hurts.

Furthermore, for those of us worried about the tiny degrees of change in probability when using a backup goalie, tonight's opponent is certainly beatable.

The Coyotes come in having lost six in a row, with the worst goal differential (-68) in the league. They lost last night in Newark but will start Mike Smith again for a back-to-back workload.

Yotes and Notes
  • After an ankle injury scare Sunday, Frans Nielsen pronounced himself good to go. So Kyle Okposo and Mikhail Grabovski remain the key injuries, with a side of Casey Cizikas over here.
  • With Zbynek Michalek out, ex-Isle Dylan Reese was recalled and will make his Coyotes debut tonight. Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzel are also out injured for the Coyotes.
  • After beating Nashville convincingly last week, the Isles blew two chances to be the first to 40 wins. The Predators are now there.
  • The Isles are winless in 2014-15 games reffed by tonight's officials, Tom Kowal (0-2) and Mike Leggo (0-2). Come here, regression!

Johnson, on being better lately and the advantages of regular work:

"I’m tracking pucks better and the flow of the game is coming more natural for me. I’m just playing and not overthinking things. Sometimes when things aren’t going well, you have two or three weeks between games you get a lot of people trying to work on things, telling you to do different things and you can kind of lose focus of where your game needs to be. The more you play, the more people leave you alone..."

Jack Capuano on starting Johnson:

"If you play well, you're going to play," Capuano said. "Chad's been playing well and he deserves that opportunity as we move forward so we can analyze our hockey club."

For the first time since Feb. 1-2, the Isles actually have two games between games after tonight's contest. That ends with a back-to-back, naturally, Friday and Saturday at home to the Flames and Hurricanes.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here.