The Islanders battle their second consecutive first-place opponent when they take on the Red Wings in Detroit on New Year’s Eve. Here are three factors to watch when the puck drops before the ball drops.
Double Dose of D?
The Islanders bottled up the Penguins last game, holding Sidney Crosby and Co. to one goal. That feat is doubly impressive considering the adjustments the team had to make in the wake of trading defenseman James Wisniewski. But the formula the Isles employed Wednesday -- have G Rick DiPietro stand on his head -- probably isn’t a good one for long-term success. You just don’t win too many games giving up 38 shots on goal.
Head coach Jack Capuano has an interesting choice on his hands when he selects his netminder tonight. Does he go with the hot hand and stick DiPietro back in goal? Or does he saddle up Dwayne Roloson and see if his best goalie this season can rebound from that suspect 7-2 showing against the Rangers. My logic? Go with DiPietro. If he’s streaking, he might be able to steal another win Friday night, and if the Isles are going to trade Roloson at some point this season, you want DiPietro to start getting comfortable. Besides, if the Islander D still isn’t too strong, the Red Wings aren’t an opponent that allows goalies to regain their confidence.
The Isles took 23 minutes of penalties against Pittsburgh, 10 of those a game misconduct to Zenon Konopka. On the season, New York is averaging just shy of 17 penalty minutes per game, the second highest average in the NHL. On one hand, that’s problematic since the Islanders PK operates at a middling 81 percent. But on the other, it may not be so bad. All but one of the penalties taken against the Pens were aggression penalties. Those are the kind of whistles that show a team playing right on the edge, and frankly, that’s where the Islanders need to play to win games. They need to throw some shoulders. They need to play the body. They need to get their opponent out of their comfort zone. If the Islanders start taking whistles for hooking, interference, tripping -- that’s when it becomes a problem because those are penalties taken by lazy defensive players.