The Blue Jackets get to be a piece of hockey history tonight, playing the role of the visiting team in the New York Islanders' first game back at the now-renovated Nassau Coliseum. It'll be the Isles' temporary home for the next three seasons, splitting time between the Coliseum and Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
Things were a lot different the last time the Islanders played at Nassau. For one, they still had superstar center John Tavares on their roster. Tavares is gone, but the Islanders haven't gone quietly into the night.
Rather, they're right in the thick of the Metro and currently hold the second wild card position. They've struggled as of late, though, losing their last two games while scoring a combined two goals. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are winners of their last two and have filled the net scoring 11.
So, are the Islanders for real, or are their recent struggles more indicative of who they are this season? Tonight could help us answer that question.
Panarin – Dubois – Atkinson
Foligno – Jenner – Anderson
Dubinsky – Wennberg – Bjorkstrand
Sedlak – Nash – Hannikainen
Werenski – Jones
Murray – Nutivaara
Harrington – Savard
- Goal scoring. Losing your best player stings, and the Islanders are certainly missing Tavares. Their 73 goals this season rank 19th in the league. They have been scoring by committee, as eight players have scored over 10 points. No one on their team has hit 10 goals yet, though Brock Nelson is close sitting at nine.
- Even without Tavares, the Islanders still have a game breaking forward in Matthew Barzal, the reining Calder Trophy winner. Barzal is one of the fastest players in the league, and that speed makes him a constant threat. He hasn’t scored much – just three goals on the season – but he is a play making machine. He had 63 assists last season and already has 18 this year. If the Blue Jackets can shut him down, the other Islanders may not be able to pick up the slack.
- With Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, the Islanders may have the most imposing fourth line in the league. They won't blow you away with skill, but they're incredibly physical. Can the Blue Jackets fourth line match that physicality with skill?
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