The New York Islanders are 4-1 on their seven-game stint away from home, but that record conceals some concerning performances, just as the "seven-game" label on this trip conceals that it began and will end in the metro area.
Thomas Greiss, who starred against the Canucks Tuesday, gets his second consecutive start and the lineup will be the same. But after slow starts in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver -- a loss sandwiched by two wins -- the lines will have a new look from the opening draw.
Travis Hamonic gets his final(?) appearance in Winnipeg in an Isles jersey, and Ryan Pulock gets his first NHL appearance -- and third NHL game overall -- in his home province, with some 20 family and friends expected in attendance. But the story to watch tonight is how the latest combos fare.
Brock Nelson, who went on a hot streak that coincided to his return to center (don't say you weren't warned), is now on left wing after a rocky game in Vancouver and some tepid performances overall. Lucky for him, the "demotion" takes him to the first scoring line with John Tavares and Ryan Strome.
With Mikhail Grabovski on IR, he's not available to fill Nelson's center slot. So that means...Josh Bailey? Nope. Nikolay Kulemin.
Kulemin, named to Russia's first 16 for its World Cup squad yesterday, hasn't been great this season himself. You could even argue he's the guy who should sit when all forwards are healthy (assuming the unshakable Best Fourth Line in Hockey remains intact).
But his defensive and bulldog reputation is well-earned, so it will be interesting to see him centering newcomer Shane Prince and Anders Lee, who apparently slides to the right side.
Hey, when you're struggling for goals, I guess you run the blender. Anyway, the top 12 look like this, at least for the first rotation tonight:
Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Shane Prince - Nikolay Kulemin - Anders Lee
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Assume the D pairs remain the same, meaning:
de Haan - Hamonic
Leddy - Boychuk
Hickey - Pulock
Meanwhile, what do you do when you're not the starting goalie that night? Practice your shot, man:
Isles Jaro Halak going top corner. pic.twitter.com/MHF0i3lZrj— Rick Ralph (@RickRalphTSN) March 3, 2016
Maurice on the Isles
"You go back to the playoff series with Pittsburgh where you start really watching a young team give Pittsburgh all they can handle. They were one of the few teams in the playoffs that year that weren't dumping the puck. They were attacking at the line and Pittsburgh had a hard time with that.
Flash forward a few years and now they've added some defensemen they've got a depth they didn't have, possibly the best fourth line in the league if you want to call it that, but deep, an adherence to a solid defensive game. They've done a really good job of taking high-end offensive guys, the Tavareses of the world, molding them where they are still productive but also responsible."
The Jets, who traded captain Andrew Ladd to Chicago before the trade deadline, now shake out like this:
Michael Hutchinson is expected to start in goal.
They are working in younger guys into bigger roles -- as well as Ladd trade return Marco Dano -- and Maurice says that means a change to their approach on the penalty kill too.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. The seasonlong reward, as always, is total consciousness on your deathbed. Dare you choose Prince Kulemin Lee of Lancashire?