Pregame 3/18/14: Wild at Islanders
The matchup tonight between the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild in Uniondale will feature two homecomings of former Islanders with very different feels to them. Both Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreiter will be making their first trips back to Uniondale since their respective trades. Niederreiter was dealt on draft day to the Wild for Cal Clutterbuck and Moulson was originally dealt to Buffalo in the infamous Thomas Vanek trade and has since been moved to Minnesota. Moulson and Niederreiter hold vastly different spots in the hearts of Isles fans as Moulson was and still is a fan favorite while Niederreiter, upset by playing time and a long stint in the AHL virtually argued his way off of Long Island. Regardless of the feelings we may have toward each one, the goal remains the same, 2 points at the conclusion of 60 minutes.
Minnesota Wild at New York Islanders (7:00pm MSG Plus 2, 88.7 WRHU FM)
New York Islanders (26-34-9; 61 points, 8th in Metropolitan Division)
Anders Lee - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Johan Sundstrom - Casey Cizikas - Mike Halmo
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Kevin Czuczman - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Calvin de Haan
Minnesota Wild (35-23-10; 80 points, 4th in Central Division)
Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter
Dany Heatley - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Jonas Brodin
Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard
-This is the second and final meeting of the year between the Islanders and Wild. The first meeting was back on December 29 at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild held a 3-0 lead at one point and the Islanders managed 5 goals in the final 37 minutes to win the game 5-4. Former Wild Cal Clutterbuck also tallied in his first game back in Minnesota against his former team.
- New Islander signee Kevin Czuczman will make his NHL debut tonight. The former Lake Superior State defenseman will be paired up with Travis Hamonic in his first game. The 6'3", 204lb defenseman has had the praises of John Tavares and Ryan Strome sung about him as the trio work out together in the offseason. Czuczman cited his familiarity with Tavares and Strome as a big reason he chose to come to Long Island. The Port Elgin, ON native scored 10 goals and 11 assists with 73 penalty minutes in 36 games with Lake Superior State this season. There will be an obvious transition period for the 23 year old, but his size and style of play look to be a good fit with the Islanders.
- The goaltending matchup will be Anders Nilsson (per the Isles website) and Ilya Bryzgalov (unconfirmed). Darcy Kuemper got the start and loss for the Wild last night in Boston so look for Bryzgalov to pick up the tail end of this back to back set for Minnesota. Nilsson is coming off of a solid game against Buffalo on saturday night stopping 33 of 34 shots en route to a 4-1 Islanders victory.
- Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreiter aren't the only former Islanders to be playing this evening. Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon was a 6th round pick, 156th overall of the Islanders in 2008. Spurgeon and the Islanders never came to an agreement on a contract and he eventually attended the Minnesota Wild training camp in 2010-2011 on a tryout. It was there that he earned a 3 year entry level contract and has been ever since.
- Playing against teams that traded you away always provides a spark so look for Moulson, Niederreiter and Clutterbuck to be noticeable on the ice.
- The Minnesota Wild Leaders in goal scoring and points are Jason Pominville and Zach Parise in that order for both categories. Making up 2/3 of their first line, these are not guys the Islanders can afford any kind of breakdown against. For the Islanders, look at Anders Lee and Kyle Okposo to continue to carry the load offensively. Okposo was named the NHL's second star of last week tallying 7 points in 3 games. Lee has contributed 10 points in the 9 games since being recalled from Bridgeport and is providing solid secondary scoring.
Lets hope the Islanders can build off of their win on Saturday and put together a few wins so the season ends on a high note.