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W2W4: Islanders vs. Maple Leafs

10/18/2010

Your first-place New York Islanders clash with the unbeaten Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. Wait, did I just write that?

Okay, so the Isles are technically tied with the Penguins, but New York has played one fewer game. The Leafs, on the other hand, are the class of the Eastern Conference with their 4-0-0 start. Which team will prevail tonight? Here’s what I’ll be watching for.

You Like-a the Juice?

Milan Jurcina scored, not once, but twice in Saturday’s win over the Avalanche. He finished with three points and a plus-3 rating. Those are the kinds of contributions you are thrilled to get from a low-cost, high ceiling summer acquisition. Jurcina has an absolute bomb of a shot from the point. While his skating’s not as sharp as, say, Mark Streit, he provides a physical presence as well. Jurcina isn’t going to provide two goals every night, but the Washington Capitals believed he had plenty of talent to unlock. If head coach Scott Gordon and Co. have found the key, an improved Jurcina would be a big help tonight and throughout the season.

Tavares Time

John Tavares made his return Saturday, scoring an empty-netter for his first point of the season while skating 18:48 of ice time. The Isles certainly don’t want to rush him, but it will be interesting to see if there’s any increase in his TOI in his second game back from his opening-night concussion.

Center of Attention

Josh Bailey (team-high seven points this season) has looked great after moving from the wing in the wake of injuries to centers Rob Schremp and Tavares. So what happens when Schremp returns? Bailey’s play in the next few contests could create an interesting dilemma if he keeps going strong. And, for the first time in this injury-plagued season, it will be a good dilemma to have.