Shark Attack!- Islanders/Sharks Preview

 

Rick DiPietro will make his first start of the season as the New York Islanders welcome in the red hot San Jose Sharks.
 
DiPietro made a shocking season debut Thursday night after the Isles’ and Pittsburgh Penguins played to a 2-2 tie after regulation and the five minute overtime period. After a brief conversation by the bench, it was DiPietro, not starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who came in for the shootout. He was able to stop Kris Letang from in close, but Evgeni Malkin put on a great display of stick handling and slid the puck under an outstretched DiPietro to give the Pens’ their first goal in the skills competition. After a miss from James Neal, the game was on the stick of Isles forward John Tavares. A simple poke-check from Marc-Andre Fluery later, and the Islanders had lost their fourth consecutive game 3-2. 
 
This is the third starting goaltender to play for the team in nine games. Al Montoya looked solid between the pipes in three of his four outings this year. He hasn’t seen the ice after giving up four goals to Tampa Bay last Thursday night. Evgeni Nabokov was the best player for the Islanders in the home and home series against the Penguins. He was the main reason the Islanders stole a point on the road against a division rival. The starting job looked to be his until the last minute change.
 
After the game, Capuano told the media that Nabby had suffered a lower body injury. The coach looked very nervous answering the question and never seemed comfortable explaining his decision. The injury continued its life on Friday when Nabokov was held out of practice. He will likely not be in the lineup against his former team.
 
It is now DiPietro’s time to shine. He will be given a great opportunity to feature his game against a top flight opponent on a big night for the Islanders organization.
 
The team will honor their 1992-93 Eastern Conference finals team before the game. They are the last Isles team to win a playoff series, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals before succumbing to the eventually Stanley Cup winning Montreal Canadiens in five games. 
 
 
Happy Thoughts
 
There were a few positives from Thursday’s game besides the play of Nabokov. The second line of Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen all created great scoring opportunities. It was the effort of Okposo that led to the Islanders first goal by Nielsen. The fourth line of Matt Martin, Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo was the best line for the Islanders all night. They were sensational 5 on 5 blocking shots and playing with a lot of energy. Their hard work paid off as Matt Martin scored his first of the year early in the second period. The combination of Reasoner and Pandolfo on the penalty kill continues to pay dividends. They were able to kill all but one of the Penguins power plays. Capuano rewarded them with shifts late in the third period and in overtime. Milan Jurcina made his return to the lineup and looked comfortable and confident on the puck. 
 
The Islanders have a lot to build on as the Sharks swim into town. San Jose is in the midst of a six game road trip that has seen them win four consecutive road games, including a 4-2 triumph in Detroit last night.
 
Know Thy’ Enemy
 
Antti Niemi will not be in goal for the Sharks. He has been the winning goaltender in the last four games yielding only eight goals. They will turn to backup Thomas Greiss for the second of back to back games. He is 1-2-0 in three starts with a 2.36 goals against average.(GAA) 
 
San Jose is a difficult team to play against because of all their offensive talent. Joe Pavelski leads the team with six goals. Joe Thornton can make plays from anywhere on the ice. Islander fans would be thrilled if Tavares has similar productivity in his career. Martin Havlat has six career goals against the Islanders and by all accounts had his best game in a San Jose uniform last night with two assists and solid two way play throughout. Logan Couture scored 32 goals in his rookie season and will need to be shadowed by the Isles’ defensemen. Patrick Marleau quietly scored 37 goals last season and is always around the net. The Sharks top six forward rivals any other 6 in the sport.
 
Defensively, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns anchor a shutdown veteran unit. Boyle had been a key piece to the success and has a great shot from the point on power play opportunities. Burns had a breakout year in Minnesota last year before being traded in the offseason. He is a physical defensemen that isn’t scared of contact.  Goals are at a premium against the Sharks. The Isles’ power play has to produce when called upon. Only 19 shots on goal will not cut it against a team with their talent. 
 
The first period will be telling for both teams. The Islanders will need to harness the emotion and excitement of having their 1992-93 team back in the building. Their will likely be a nostalgic pro-Islanders crowd at the Coliseum but the team tends to come out flat when the building is packed. The Sharks will have to work on not having a letdown after their big win last night. The Islanders are a talented young team and shouldn’t be looked past. How each team handled the first 20 minutes will be an indicator of which team gets the two points.
 
 
Who will win?
 
The Islanders pay tribute to their 1992-93 team and take advantage of a great crowd to defeat the San Jose Sharks 4-3. The Sharks could have a ‘Rangers Hangover’ against a lesser team on the second of back to back games.