New York Hockey: Matt Moulson

W2W4: Islanders vs. Rangers

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
3:05
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At a glance: Tuesday marks newly acquired Thomas Vanek's first game as a New York Islander and the two-time 40-goal scorer will be thrown right into the fire with a rivalry clash against the New York Rangers. The Rangers head to Nassau Coliseum having been blanked by the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night -- the third shutout loss of the season for the Rangers. Neither the Islanders nor the Rangers have enjoyed the start they expected. GM Garth Snow made a splash Sunday night, shipping core member Matt Moulson and two picks to Buffalo in exchange for Vanek as an attempt to shake things up for his middling club. The Rangers' return home to Madison Square Garden on Monday did not yield the results they hoped, either. The anemic loss dropped them to 3-7-0 on the season, which leaves them in 15th place in the Eastern Conference just one point ahead of the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

Vanek debut: Less than two days after being traded from Buffalo, Vanek will wear a different team's sweater for the first time in his NHL career. Isles fans are keen to see what sort of chemistry he can forge with superstar center John Tavares, who lost his longtime linemate in the Moulson deal. The success of the deal will likely hinge on whether Vanek, a pending unrestricted free agent, decides to re-sign with the Islanders, so the campaign to sell him on the merits of his new club begins Tuesday. The pressure's on for Vanek, too, considering that his counterpart in the trade was impressive in his Sabres debut. Moulson scored two goals in Buffalo's 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Help on the way: The Rangers are in dire need of some help considering their injury-plagued lineup and it appears they will get that Tuesday, when Carl Hagelin is eligible to come off the long-term injured list. Hagelin, who had surgery on his left shoulder this summer, adds offensive skill and a much-needed speed dimension to a Rangers squad struggling for offense. The Rangers are last in the league with a mere 1.50 goals per game.

A look at the numbers: Now that each team has 10 or more games under their belts, let's take a gander at some advanced stats that could be telling. According to HockeyAnalysis.com, the Rangers' middling Corsi percentage -- 49.0 percent -- and Fenwick percentage -- 48.6 percent -- suggests that they might not be as bad as their record implies. Their PDO, a stat designed to predict regression (and the opposite), also indicates they could be on the upswing. Meanwhile, the Islanders are in the bottom four teams for both Corsi and Fenwick rating, despite the fact that they have the better record at 4-4-3.

Talbot in net: Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot is slated to get the start Tuesday, according to the reports from Tuesday's morning skates. That means Rangers coach Alain Vigneault opted to give starter Henrik Lundqvist -- who returned Monday after missing two games with an unspecified injury -- the night off as opposed to using him in back-to-back nights.

Moulson-Vanek trade is a gamble for Isles

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:05
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It'll take time for the dust to settle on Sunday night's stunner of a trade -- and it would be unfair to assess the winners and losers of the deal at this point -- but there was a fair amount of criticism for the Islanders after general manager Garth Snow shipped Matt Moulson and a pair of picks to Buffalo in exchange for Thomas Vanek.

Yes, the Isles acquired a two-time 40-goal scorer who has the potential to make some magic with star center John Tavares, but they made a significant gamble to do so.

Thomas Vanek #26 of the Buffalo Sabres
Jen Fuller/Getty ImagesSabres co-captain Thomas Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer, was traded to the Islanders on Sunday night.
If Vanek and Tavares enjoy the type of chemistry Snow hopes and expects, that'll be a start, but the real barometer of whether the deal was worthwhile will depend on whether Vanek decides to re-sign.

Considering the 29-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this July, he could turn out to be nothing more than a very high-priced rental. It's also worth pointing out that there has been significant speculation that Vanek could land with the Minnesota Wild this summer -- a notion that should not be discounted given his ties to the area.

Vanek is skating on a line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo on Monday, but what sort of success will they have together? Vanek's numbers speak for themselves, which is why Snow viewed the former University of Minnesota standout as an offensive upgrade, but it's hard to deny the chemistry forged between Moulson and Tavares in their four years together on Long Island.

Here's where things will be interesting to watch.

I'm not suggesting that Snow should pander to his star player, and Tavares isn't the type of person to demand that treatment, either. However, I do think there needs to be consideration given to the fact that Moulson is, for all intents and purposes, Tavares' comfort blanket both on and off the ice. They are best friends and linemates who have rarely played apart. Heck, Tavares is even the godfather to Moulson's 14-month-old daughter, Mila. Do you risk upsetting your franchise player and disrupting a very productive tandem for a player who may be around for less than a season?

That's the chance Snow took, and he'll have to stand behind that should it not pan out.

Also, know this:

Moulson was not unhappy in Long Island. To the contrary, he was surprised to hear about the trade and upset to leave his teammates. He had plans to be a part of the team's future; he did not want out.

The Islanders and Moulson's camp did not have any substantive talks before the trade, but that doesn't mean it had become a toxic situation. Not by a long shot. Moulson was in line for a significant pay raise, but he also knew that he would not be making more in annual average value than Tavares should a long-term deal been worked out.

Now, he's out of town before such talks even transpired.

The Isles rolled the dice. Maybe it pays off, maybe it does not. Until then, they parted with a core, character guy whose chemistry with the team's star player was a known commodity. They did so at a high price and a high risk.

Is that criticism deserved? You bet.

ESPN.com's Craig Custance also offered his take here. A very good read with strong insight and analysis.

Isles fall 3-2 to Blue Jackets in shootout

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
10:18
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After topping the Devils in their first game of the season Friday night, the Islanders blew a 2-0 lead to drop their home opener 3-2 against the Blue Jackets at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

In their second shootout in as many nights -- Matt Moulson notched the winner in the sixth round against New Jersey on Friday -- the Islanders fell 3-2 after Cam Atkinson beat Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in the fourth round.

Moulson and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky were the lone goal-scorers for the Isles in regulation. New captain John Tavares picked up assists on both second-period markers but has yet to score his first goal of the 2013-14 season.
From the official NHL release:

KANE, MOULSON AND ST. LOUIS VOTED LADY BYNG TROPHY FINALISTS


NEW YORK (May 16, 2013) – Right wing Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, left wing Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders and right wing Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the three finalists for the
2012-13 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,” the National Hockey League announced today.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Lady Byng Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, with more detail on format to be released at a later date.

Following are the finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, in alphabetical
order:

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Kane ranked fifth in the NHL in both goals (23) and points (55), leading Chicago to its second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history. He played in 47 games, averaging 20:03 of playing time, but was whistled for just eight penalty minutes – the fewest among the top 20 point-producers in the League. Kane also recorded a +11 rating, his second-best plus/minus in his six-year NHL career, and tied for seventh in the League with eight power-play goals. The 24-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native is a Lady Byng finalist for the first time.

Matt Moulson, New York Islanders

Moulson placed in the top three on the Islanders in goals (15), assists (29) and points (44), helping the team to its first playoff berth in six years. He totaled four penalty minutes in 47 games, tied with San Jose forward Logan Couture for the fewest among the top 50 scorers in the League. Moulson also posted his fourth consecutive 15-goal season, tied for seventh in the NHL with eight power-play goals and logged an average of
19:09 per game. The 29-year-old North York, Ont., native is a Lady Byng finalist for the second straight year, having finished third in voting in 2011-12.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

St. Louis led the NHL with 43 assists and 60 points in 48 games to capture his second career Art Ross Trophy (2003-04). He averaged 1.25 points per game, becoming one of only three players in League history to achieve that mark at age 37 or older (Mario Lemieux, 2002-03; Gordie Howe, 1968-69). St. Louis also ranked second among NHL forwards in total time on ice (1,055:12), but was assessed just 14 penalty minutes. The Laval, Que., native is a two-time Lady Byng winner (2009-10, 2010-11) and has been voted a finalist for the award on four other occasions.

History

Lady Byng, wife of Canada’s Governor-General at the time, presented the Lady Byng Trophy during the 1924-25 season. After Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers won the award seven times in eight seasons, he was given the trophy to keep and Lady Byng donated another trophy in 1936. After Lady Byng’s death in 1949, the National Hockey League presented a new trophy, changing the name to the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.

Announcement Schedule

The NHL is announcing the three finalists for its regular-season awards through May 20. The remaining announcement schedule:

Friday, May 17
Jack Adams Award (top head coach)

Monday, May 20
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone (player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice)

Penguins' determination fits to a 'T'

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins showed up for work Wednesday morning wearing T-shirts with the No. 4 on the back, a nod to the immediate task of winning four games to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

No word on whether those same shirts will be worn Thursday with the "4" crossed out and replaced by a "3" after the Penguins whipped the New York Islanders 5-0 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

They’re just T-shirts, of course: some fabric and a little lettering, including the phrase, "Here We Go."

But the shirts speak to a mindset, a narrowing of the focus to the task at hand.

When you are a team as deep and talented as the Penguins -- and when there is as much discussion about a long playoff run, a possible trip to the Stanley Cup finals, another championship -- it might be easy to forget about first things first.

If you look at the big picture, if you look at what is needed to win a Cup, "It’s a bit overwhelming," Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams said after Wednesday’s game.

And if you start thinking about that, "you’ll never get there," he said.

"Everyone wanted to hand us the Cup last year, and we saw how that turned out," Adams added.

And there’s the rub.

In an interview before Wednesday’s game, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero went to great pains to reinforce that his team was very mindful of the Islanders, even though the Pens were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Isles the eighth seed.

"I know this team has a great deal of respect for the Islanders," Shero said. "There’s no way we’ll be underestimating them."

Those are the kinds of sentiments that are on display when you’re coming off a 2012 playoff season that really ended before it began with the Penguins blowing a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia in Game 1 and quickly falling behind 3-0 in the series en route to a six-game loss. It was the second consecutive one-and-done playoff spring for the Penguins, and they have won just one playoff round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

So you can understand if there is an emphasis on the details this time around.

"We’ve been preaching that all year," Adams said. "I think we’ve been humbled."

After one game, it would appear the message has sunk in, as the Penguins methodically took apart an inexperienced Islanders team that is playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

The Pens took advantage of an early power play to go up 1-0 after a terrific play by Beau Bennett, who cut in from the right side and roofed a shot over veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov. Bennett wouldn’t be in the lineup if it weren’t for the fact that doctors declined to let captain Sidney Crosby suit up for Game 1.

Talk about taking advantage of your opportunities: Bennett scored in his first-ever playoff game.

The Penguins would add another power-play goal early in the second period by Kris Letang before Pascal Dupuis, the king of even-strength goals, added two while the teams were playing five aside. Tanner Glass rounded out the scoring with his first-ever postseason goal.

Defensively, the Pens killed off four Islander power plays and limited the Isles to 26 shots, providing netminder Marc-Andre Fleury with ample protection. Fleury, who endured a nightmare series last postseason against the Flyers, earned his sixth postseason shutout.

"Everything went great tonight," Dupuis said. "Yes, we did play the right way, but you have to keep saying to yourself it’s only 1-0."

If there was cause for concern for the Penguins, it was the loss of James Neal, who got tangled up with Travis Hamonic early in the second period and did not return. There was no information on his status for Game 2 Friday.

Also, Jussi Jokinen, who added two assists and continues to be a point machine since coming over from Carolina at the trade deadline, went off the ice gingerly after a collision with Islanders forward Marty Reasoner, who was assessed a kneeing major with 2:10 left in the game.

The Islanders, meanwhile, looked like a team whose most important players (outside Nabokov) were playing in their first playoff game. Reasoner, playing in his 24th career postseason game, was the player with the most playoff experience among Islander skaters, and he’d been a healthy scratch for the final 10 regular-season games.

John Tavares, who figures to be among the finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, was a nonfactor, finishing the night without a shot. Likewise, Brad Boyes and Matt Moulson weren’t the players who combined for 25 regular-season goals.

Head coach Jack Capuano said the team’s work ethic and determination weren’t what they had been during the final month of the regular season, when the Isles secured an unexpected playoff berth, and the execution was lacking.

Nabokov, a player Capuano referred to as an extension of the coaching staff given his experience, was given the hook just 1:51 into the second period after the Pens made it 4-0 with two goals in 32 seconds.

Although he was beaten twice by hard, high shots courtesy of Bennett and Letang on the power play, this loss wasn’t a function of poor goaltending. Instead, this was a loss that was, pure and simple, about one team being light years ahead of another in terms of getting the job done.

"Obviously, I think it was a little bit too easy for them, for the Penguins. All-around game has to be better. Better saves, more saves. I guess it’s got to start with me," Nabokov said.

"I’ve got to make key saves at the key times and give the guys a chance to battle. But the game was over basically at the beginning of the second period, it’s four-zip, and it’s really tough to come out of it against that type of team. So [I] have to find a way to tighten up and be better," he said.

Of course, as the Pens’ T-shirts remind us, this series is not the best of one.

The Islanders have a chance to regroup, and one imagines whatever nerves and butterflies might have invaded their bodies Wednesday will have dissipated by the time Game 2 rolls around Friday night.

"I don’t think anything is easy. You have to come out, and you have to work hard. It’s got to hurt to play; I heard somebody in the locker room actually say that: It’s got to hurt to play," Nabokov said.

"I think we have to come out next game, and we have to be ready, be more physical and just make it hard on them everywhere, every inch of the ice. We have to battle for every inch of the ice, everywhere. I think that’s the only way we can play with that team because, otherwise, they’re too skilled. They’re too good."

Rapid Reaction: Isles 4, Flyers 1

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
9:36
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What it means: With a 4-1 win over the Flyers on Tuesday night, the Islanders passed the Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings to tighten their hold on a playoff spot. The Islanders, poised to earn their first playoff berth since 2007, have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games, the last of which ended with the crowd at Nassau Coliseum chanting, "We want playoffs!"

Tuesday's win was a crucial way for the team to start a tough week. The Islanders now travel to Boston for a game against the Bruins on Thursday before returning home to host the Rangers in a bitter divisional clash on Saturday. With a 2-1 lead to preserve late in the third, the Islanders got an insurance goal -- credited to John Tavares -- when a puck bounced in off Philadelphia's Erik Gustafsson with 1:37 to play. Casey Cizikas piled on with an empty-netter 28 seconds later to seal the win.

Leading after two: Snapping a 1-1 draw, Michael Grabner beat Flyers goaltender Steve Mason with a sharp snapshot for his 13th goal of the season. Colin McDonald picked up an assist on the play, which gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead with 2:18 remaining in the second period.

Good goal: Sprung by a crisp stretch pass from linemate Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek opened scoring Tuesday with a breakaway goal at 6:28 of the first period. Although the play was reviewed, the call on the ice -- good goal -- was upheld for a 1-0 Flyers lead.

Back in action: Returning from a bad bout of the flu that halted his iron-man streak at 284 consecutive games played on Saturday, Matt Moulson knotted the score at 1 with a snapshot that beat Steve Mason with 4:24 to play in the first. Brad Boyes picked up an assist with a nice little dish to Moulson on the 2-on-2 rush.

Rough stuff: Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn took exception to Matt Martin running into Mason in the crease and challenged the rugged forward to a fight during the second period. Both players dropped the gloves for a quick bout that ended with a takedown by Martin.

Up next: Islanders vs. Bruins, Thursday at 7 p.m.

W2W4: Isles vs. Flyers

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
12:23
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At a glance: The Islanders are gearing up for what would be their first playoff appearance in six years and have the opportunity to firm up their chances. Currently tied with the Rangers at 42 points, the Islanders have the chance to pass their division rivals with a win at home over the Flyers. Coming off a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday, the Flyers' playoff hopes are rapidly waning but they've won seven straight on Long Island heading into Tuesday’s contest.

Strong stretch: Instead of desperately clawing for points to avoid elimination, the Islanders have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games to put themselves in position to play on. The Isles have a tough week ahead, though. Following Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, the Isles travel to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday before returning home to host the Rangers on Saturday.

Nabby in net: Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will make his 34th start of the season Tuesday against the Flyers. The 36-year-old netminder, who is 18-11-4 with a .906 save percentage and 2.64 GAA, squares off against Philly's Steve Mason. Mason was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade with Columbus last week.

Line to watch: The Islanders' second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo has been a productive one of late. Both Bailey and Nielsen have five points in the last four games, while Okposo has chipped in with a goal and an assist over the last two games.

Back in action: After missing Saturday’s game with the flu, Matt Moulson’s ironman streak came to an end at 284 games. But he returns to action Tuesday after missing the first Islanders game of his career. His consecutive games played streak ranks third in team history.

Hello, Brooklyn: The Islanders announced they will play their first game at Barclays Center, an exhibition match against the New Jersey Devils, on September 21, 2013.

What's holding back the Islanders?

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
2:15
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ESPN.com's Craig Custance takes a look at the Islanders' shortcomings this season and what stands between them and what would be their first playoff spot in six years.

Check it out here.

Tavares comes through against Devils

February, 16, 2013
2/16/13
11:05
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John TavaresChristopher Pasatieri/Getty ImagesJohn Tavares' hat trick lifted the Islanders to victory.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The postgame sentiment from John Tavares seemed a mix of both excitement and relief on Saturday night.

Thrilled, of course, that the Islanders knocked off the Devils 5-1; happy that his fourth career hat trick led the way for the team’s second straight win; satisfied that the club's unsightly five-game skid is now in the rear-view mirror as the team climbs up the Eastern Conference standings.

"Another good win," Tavares said. "Not every game is going to be our best game, but if we keep our consistency, it’ll lead to good results."

It was a decidedly different scene from last week, when a TV broadcast showed a dejected Tavares on the Islanders bench, absolutely despondent after the team’s fifth straight loss -- a 6-4 eyesore in which the team surrendered four third-period goals to the Carolina Hurricanes.

And considering that sobering moment, it’s hard not to imagine that the 22-year-old center wanted nothing more than to put the team on his back and turn things around.

With nine points over the past five games, he’s doing his best.

After the five-game slump that placed the team perilously close to irrelevance just a quarter through the 2013 season, the team has now rattled off two straight against divisional opponents. Downing the Rangers in the shootout Thursday night and knocking off the Devils at home, the Islanders are now tied for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the last playoff spot.

They have fought their way out of obscurity in large part to Tavares, whose four-point night was a stunning reminder of the talent that may allow the team to claw its way to its first postseason bid in six years.

Extending his goal-scoring streak to five games, Tavares snapped a scoreless draw late in the second period, burying a rebound from Brad Boyes with 3:13 remaining. Less than two minutes later, he notched another goal, this time on the power play, to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead and rattle Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg's confidence.

Linemate Matt Moulson, who matched Tavares’ four points with one goal and three assists, tallied the team’s third goal in the span of 2:20 to sink the Devils right before second intermission.

Tavares’ best goal of the night came late in the third, when he sent a blistering wrist shot past Hedberg to seal the game and give the Islanders their third power-play marker of the night.

"When you're relied upon to score, there's pressure every game, but that’s something you embrace," Moulson said. "You enjoy having that opportunity and that pressure on you to get out and produce. We take pride in producing and contributing to wins, so it’s a good feeling."

Moulson and fellow first-liner Boyes are helping Tavares pave the way, but if the Islanders are really going to make a meaningful run at the playoffs, they will have to do so on the back of their best player.

And he knows who he is.

"I think any great players put a lot of responsibilities on themselves because they want to lead the team," coach Jack Capuano said. "And that’s the way Johnny is."

Moulson named NHL's first star

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
1:53
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After a brilliant four-goal effort in the Islanders' 5-4 win over Dallas Saturday, Matt Moulson was named the NHL's first star of the week.

The 28-year-old left wing's standout performance this weekend capped a week in which he finished with six goals and one assist in five games, helping his struggling Islanders club to a 3-0-1 finish on their four-game road trip.

The two-time 30-goal scorer has 13 goals and 6 assists in 24 games for the Islanders this season. He is is joined by brother-in-law, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, on the league's list of best performers for the week.

Quick recorded two wins last week, including one shutout, to post a 0.50 goals against average and .987 save percentage.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 6, Islanders 3

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
9:33
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Recap | Box score | Photos

NEW YORK -- Here is a quick take on the Rangers' 6-3 win against the rival Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

WHAT IT MEANS: On a night in which four other playoff contenders were battling, the Rangers picked up two important points against the Islanders. The Rangers are now 4-1 against their New York rivals this season. The Islanders put themselves in a deeper hole with just 11 games left in the season as they try and steal one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders entered the night 11 points out of a playoff spot.

CERTAINLY SPECIAL: The Rangers aren't known for their power play, but the Blueshirts had a night to remember. The Rangers scored on their first three attempts, with goals coming from Erik Christensen in the first period, and scores by Marian Gaborik and Bryan McCabe in the second. Gaborik's goal increased the Rangers' lead to 4-2, while McCabe's score, his first as a Ranger after being brought over in part because of his play on the power play, boosted the edge to 5-2.

The Rangers also added a short-handed goal to open the game when Brandon Prust scored on a rebounded shot in the first. The Rangers have now scored 11 shorthanded goals on the season, second best in the league behind the Flyers.

QUITE CHIPPY: There's no love lost between these two teams. There were plenty of penalties and several occasions where the teams seemed like they were going to come to blows before Michael Sauer and Matt Martin eventually exchanged punches. They combined for 18 penalties, including six in the first period. Ultimately, the penalties came back to hurt the Islanders, as the Rangers scored on three of their power plays compared to one for the Islanders. The Islanders were whistled for 10 penalties.

POOR AL: Islanders goalie Al Montoya started Tuesday against the team that originally drafted him, but didn't fare too well, yielding five goals. Montoya had been drafted sixth overall by the Rangers in 2004, but the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist made him expendable and the Rangers eventually traded him to Phoenix. Montoya was pulled after the second period, but did make 31 saves.

SHOWING FIGHT: The Islanders showed some resiliency in this game by battling back to tie it early in the second period. The Rangers led 2-0 after the first, but goals by Matt Moulson and P.A. Paranteau tied the game at 2-2 just three minutes, 50 seconds into the second period.

UP NEXT: The Rangers will look to win their third straight when they play host to Montreal on Friday night. The Canadiens entered Tuesday night in sixth in the Eastern Conference and seven points ahead of the Rangers. The Islanders will head to Carolina for the third game in a four-game road swing.

W2W4: Panthers vs. Islanders

February, 21, 2011
2/21/11
8:47
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While most of the “hot team” talk has been devoted to the suddenly surging New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders have made a similar push, winning five of their last six games en route to a 7-3-0 record in February. The Isles will look to continue that trend this afternoon against the visiting Florida Panthers. Here’s what to watch for when the puck drops.

A New Addition?

On Friday, the Edmonton Oilers placed blueliner Sheldon Souray on re-entry waivers from the AHL. At noon Monday we’ll hear if anyone has claimed him. Could the Islanders tap the waiver wire again?

Earlier this season New York unsuccessfully tried to wrangle G Evgeni Nabokov to the island, but the goalie refused to honor his contract. They would likely have more luck with Souray who is looking to escape the minors and show NHL teams he has plenty left to offer. Not to mention the Islanders could use a defenseman with a booming slap shot to help run their power play. Add in that Souray’s $4.5 million salary over the remainder of this season and the next is now halved due to the re-entry waivers process and he could make a very appealing target for GM Garth Snow. Time will tell.

Getting Offensive

Look, Isles fans. It’s the future! The offense has been red hot lately for the Islanders, with New York putting up three or more goals in all but one game this month (a 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Feb. 2). During those 10 games the tandem of Michael Grabner (formerly of the Panthers) and John Tavares have combined for 15 goals, 10 by Grabner. The recently re-signed Matt Moulson has chipped in with 6. Seeing the team’s young talent playing to their potential has got to be encouraging.

Who Is That Masked Man?


Al Montoya recorded just his second career NHL shutout when he blanked the Los Angeles Kings Saturday, his second strong outing for the Islanders since coming to the team. (His first was a 37-minute relief effort in a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.) Montoya now flaunts a .954 save percentage in NHL action this season and should get the nod this afternoon, though I haven’t seen a starter reported yet.

Parise, Gaborik and stretch-run storylines

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
11:08
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As I make my way to Raleigh, N.C. for the All-Star game, I thought I’d leave you with a few key storylines to watch as the season unfolds down the stretch run.

Will the Devils Deal?

Just today, E.J. Hradek listed Jason Arnott as one of five players that need to be dealt before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Even with their recent winning streak, the playoffs seem a bit far fetched for New Jersey at this point. It looks like the final spot in the Eastern Conference will again be about 90 points (the Thrashers are on pace for 89.88 over 82 games). Barring a miraculous stretch run in which the Devils put up 55 points in 33 games, that’s not going to happen. So what do the Devs do to prepare for next season? Could Martin Brodeur actually be on the trade block? Those are questions GM Lou Lamoriello will have ask and answer in the next month.

Pursuing Parise

The latest word I’ve heard about the talented winger’s return is that he won’t even start skating until the first week of March. Figuring he’ll need time to get back up to speed, you wonder if it’s even worth suiting him up this season and risking the chance he could re-injure himself. But the intrigue will certainly carry into the offseason if the Devils can’t ink him to an extension. You can bet there are a number of teams out there with an offer sheet already drawn up for the restricted free agent and the Devils don’t have a ton of cap flexibility. Given the outcome of this season, you have to think that if Lamoriello is unable to re-sign Parise the Ilya Kovalchuk contract goes from “bad” to “unmitigated disaster.”

What’s Next In Long Island?

The New York Islanders started their all-star break by locking down one of their top scorers, signing Matt Moulson to a three-year deal worth $9.4 million. That’s a nice bargain if Moulson continues to score in the 30-goal range each season. (He’s on pace for 28 in 2010-11.) But that’s likely just the first of what figures to be a slew of signings before free agency opens July 1. As of right now, the Islanders have 12 players under contract for next season. Okay, 14 if you count Alexei Yashin and Brendan Witt. That leaves the futures of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Blake Comeau and more up in the air. Who will the Isles earmark as their cornerstone guys and who will they let walk away?

Getting Gaborik Going

On Broadway, the Rangers made the most of an injury-plagued first 52 games, currently sitting sixth in the East. And they’ve done it largely without the usual production of Marian Gaborik. (Thank you, Brian Boyle.) Gaborik has just 16 goals on the season and has recorded goals in back to back games just once. In fact, 10 of those goals came in just three games. Those explosions sure are fun to watch, but a little more consistency would carry the Blueshirts a long way.

W2W4: Devils vs. Islanders

January, 17, 2011
1/17/11
8:26
AM ET
It just wouldn’t be a Monday holiday without an afternoon game at Nassau Coliseum, now would it? Here are four things to watch for when the Devils visit the Isles.

Turning the Corner?

Not much has gone right for the Devils this season, but with five points in their last three games, a win Monday would give the team its most successful stretch to date. The Devs are coming off a trio of solid meetings with the Sunshine State teams, beating the Lightning twice before falling to the Panthers in OT. Part of that success is due to the improved play of Martin Brodeur. Since entering in his team’s 2-1 loss at Philadelphia Jan. 8, the goalie has stopped 101 of the 109 shots he’s faced, a .927 save percentage.
That figure is roughly 40 points better than his substandard season mark of .889.

Killed on the PK

The Devils have allowed at least one power-play goal in each of their last four games and a total of eight in their previous seven contests. That will almost certainly be problematic against and Islanders team that’s notched nine PP goals in their last eight games. The Isles have been converting their man-advantage chances at a 39 percent clip over that stretch. If the Devils take a penalty this afternoon, they do so at their own peril.

Shots

Who will have the edge: The team incapable of generating shots or the team incapable of preventing them? The Devils have produced an average of 24.8 shots per game over their last eight, while the Islanders have allowed an average or 41 shots against in their past 10 games. Recent history shows the Devils will get the puck to the net tonight though. In the last meeting between these teams the Devils outshot the Islanders 35-14. Of course, the Devs ended up losing that game 5-1, which is almost incomprehensible. In case you were wondering, the Islanders enjoyed a shooting percentage of 35.7 that night.

Tavares Time

The Islanders star has been hot over the past month, notching 19 points in his last 15 games, including a hat trick against the Sabres Saturday. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Islanders are 9-4-2 over that span. Simply put, the 2009 No. 1 pick is the most talented player on the team and he needs to produce when he’s on the ice. He’s done so lately, and against a team that’s allowed an average of 3.11 goals per game, there’s a solid chance he can continue that production Monday

Morning Links

Two quick hits to set the table for today’s matinee.

With James Wisniewski and Dwayne Roloson shipped out of town already, Pierre LeBrun writes that attention now shifts to Matt Moulson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The plan according to LeBrun though is for the team to try to sign him and trade him only if they can’t lock him down.

Tom Gulitti posts that D Anton Volchenkov will return to the lineup after missing time following the death of his father, Alexei. According to head coach Jacques Lemaire, D Matt Corrente is a little “banged up” and won’t accompany the team to Long Island this afternoon.

Donnie Pucks: What we learned about the Islanders in November

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
7:50
AM ET
What did we learn about the New York Islanders?

They are way too sensitive.

The treatment of Chris Botta of AOL Fanhouse was a joke. Revoking his credential was a very poor way to handle the situation. It may have distracted the hockey world about how bad the Islanders' start to the season has been. But then only added to the embarrassment. I like Garth Snow. I think he dropped the ball on this one.

Rick DiPietro is playing better.

Dipietro is healthy for the first time in a while. After a slow start, he's been better late in the month. He was great in an OT loss to the Thrashers and stoned the Devils to end the Isles' 14-game slide.

Step back for John Tavares.

Tavares has eight goals, not bad for the second-year player, but only two in November. It's tough spot for him on a team that's struggling. He needs to fight through it. Keep shooting the puck. He has scored in half the games in which he's had four or more shots.

Why was Josh Bailey sent down?

This one I don't get. He hasn't been great, just three goals and three assists but what does going down to the minors prove? Let the kid play with the big boys. I talked to a few people around the league and no one really knows why this was done.

Matt Moulson has been solid.

This time last season Matt had five multi-point games, this year just two. He's still on pace to have a similar season. Last November, he had five goals. This November, he had four. Last year at this time, he had 11 goals, this season eight. He may be a tad off the pace but there is still time for him to match last year's coming-out party.

It's too early to tell anything about Jack Capuano.

Much the same with Jack that you saw with Scott Gordon as far as results. I believe that Snow pulled the one lever that he had left when he fired Gordon. It's not like Snow had any more players to call up or trades to make. Capuano has deserved the chance to coach in the NHL and he knows the kids. That doesn't mean he won't meet the same fate in two years.

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