W2W4: Islanders vs. Canadiens

The Isles clash with the Canadiens in Montreal tonight. Here are three keys to keep an eye on.

Effort Level

While the Islanders remain an early-season surprise, head coach Scott Gordon hasn’t been pleased with a perceived diminished level of energy in recent games. As reported on the team’s site:

“We didn’t come close to playing the last four games with the same kind of oomph that we had in the first three.”

New York’s hot start has largely been predicated by an ethic of hard work for 60 minutes. They’ve also enjoyed a bit of an underdog edge as some teams appear to have mistaken the Isles for an easy two points and come out flatfooted. This team isn’t absent talent, but it doesn’t have the stars to coast and still escape with two points like Eastern Conference powers Washington and Pittsburgh.

The Habs have started strong as well and will likely be on guard on their home ice. The Isles are going to have to be ready to go all out whenever they jump over the boards.

El Nino

This could be Nino Niederreiter’s last game with the Islanders this season. After tonight his trial run comes to an end and GM Garth Snow will have to decide whether to return him to his junior team or keep him with the big club and use up a year of his entry-level contract.

As discussed previously, the rookie has been solid, but not spectacular to date. He may have to leave a more lasting impression tonight in order to convince Snow he should stick around.

Special Teams

The Islanders’ power play has been clicking percentage wise (26.2 percent) but part of that has been padded with several 5-on-3 goals. Meanwhile, the Habs’ power-play unit is scuffling something fierce, converting just 2 of 29 chances with the man-advantage.

Montreal’s power play was one of the league’s best units last season, so they’re more than due for a big breakout to start an upward trend. The Islanders will have to be extra disciplined on the PK against the PPG-starved Habs. Of course, the best solution is to stay out of the box altogether.

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