Ohhhhh Canada. The New York Islanders head north of the border for the first time in the 2015-16 season on Thursday, as they take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens are off to a scorching hot start-(11-2-1, 23 points)-and are the early favorites for the President’s Trophy. They are without their MVP and Vezina trophy winning goalie Carey Price, who is out with a lower-body injury, but that hasn’t slowed down their torrid start. The Islanders are coming off a bit of a cold funk, losing once in regulation to the Buffalo Sabres, and twice in OT/shootouts to the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils. The Isles staved off the angry mob of Isles fans with a gritty win against the Devils on Tuesday night at home, thanks to a late 3rd period goal from Casey Cizikas. New York has also been without MVP candidate and captain John Tavares who has been sidelined with an illness since Saturday. Late Wednesday night, Arthur Staple of Newsday was reporting that Tavares wanted to play against Montreal, but it’d ultimately be a decision that head coach Jack Capuano would make prior to the game.
The Islanders debuted their new, alternate black jerseys on Tuesday night, much to the chagrin of the die hard Isles faithful. Personally, I liked the black uni’s a lot better on the ice than I did when I first saw them in photos. Oh, by the way, the Isles are undefeated when wearing the black and white. Just sayin’. On the ice however, there were spurts of the game that looked like the Isles were playing uninspired hockey, which was scary considering how poorly they played over the weekend when they managed just 1 point while playing the Devils and Sabres.
The Canadiens come in with the best record in hockey, maintained primarily due to their goaltending and scoring. The Habs are 3rd in the league in goals against per game at 1.86, and are second in the league with 3.64 goals scored per game. The interesting matchup here will be on special teams. To the surprise of many, the Isles lead the league with a 90.6% Penalty Kill, and have a better Power-Play percentage at 27.6% than the habs do, at 24%. Without Price, the Isles will need to capitalize with the man advantage and try to keep pace with the Canadiens at 5 on 5.
Puck drop (poutine optional) from the Bell Centre is at 7:30 on MSG+ and the Islanders Radio Network.