The New York Islanders were a few twists and bounces from starting this four-game road trip 0-2 instead of 1-0-1, so they'll take their three points to Florida and hope for more against a desperate but health-challenged playoff bubble team.
Amid an impressive fight for the final wild card spot, the Panthers suffered the horror of two goalie injuries in the same game, a tough 3-2 loss to the lowly Leafs where the winner was scored against a hobbling Al Montoya.
Tonight may bring further hardship, as the team has a flu bug running around and rookie-in-name-only Aaron Ekblad is a risk to miss tonight's game. (Plug: While Ekblad has been good beyond his years, don't forget Brian Campbell's role, still effective after all this time.)
They will feature the resurrected Dan Ellis in goal, who gave them a chance in a shootout loss to Dallas the other night.
The Islanders also have a newcomer in goal, but it's a more planned and welcome one: Michal Neuvirth is set to get his first start since the Isles took him in a backup swap with Buffalo at the trade deadline.
Neuvirth finished his brief tenure in Buffalo on a hot run, clearly enjoying the opportunity to play regularly after the Sabres tanked Jhonas Enroth off to Dallas. We'll see how he does in a more traditional backup role with the Isles, although he's likely to get more appearances -- and better results -- than the man he replaces, Chad Johnson.
The only other planned change to the Isles lineup is the return of Matt Martin aftter his one-game suspension for kneeing Trevor Daley. He bumps Eric Boulton back out of the lineup and into cold storage.
Though injured Kyle Okposo and Tyler Kennedy joined the Isles in Florida for today's morning skate, neither will be in the lineup:
Kyle and Tyler came down with the team. It’s good for them to be around. Kyle is improving, he’s able to do certain things now that the doctors want him to do. He’s skating, working on his conditioning. Things were good, so that’s a positive sign moving forward.
This is the teams' third meeting of 2014-15. The Isles won a shootout in the fall, but the Panthers beat them 4-2 (EN) in regulation a month ago. The Panthers obviously have huge stakes, currently two points out of a wild card spot.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight over here. Don't choose Boulton.