4/8/14 Pregame: Islanders Host Ottawa

The Islanders wrap up the home slate of their season Tuesday night when the Ottawa Senators visit the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders will try to improve on their 13-18-9 home record before closing out the regular season on the road for their final three games. The Islanders have played better at home recently (3-0-1) but their failure to take advantage of home ice earlier in the year is a big reason why the Islanders will be watching the playoffs at home next week for the sixth time in their last seven seasons.  (Photo credit: paul.hadsall/flickr).

These two teams met last Wednesday in Ottawa where the Islanders were victorious 2-1. The Islanders have won both matchups this season and regardless of the outcome Tuesday night, this will be the first time the Islanders have taken the season-series from Ottawa since the 2008/09 season.

The Islanders had a streak of points in 7 straight (5-0-2) snapped by the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 Sunday night. Columbus played like a desperate team and controlled play from the drop of the puck. Three power play goals for Columbus and solid goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky fueled the victory. It was the first time since they were blanked by the Wild three weeks ago that the Islanders played the part of a young, inexperienced team.

Ottawa is coming off a 3-2 victory Saturday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa currently sits 6th in the Atlantic Division and a loss Tuesday night will officially eliminate the Senators from postseason play. Reports out of Ottawa indicate Craig Anderson will get the start against the Islanders. The team is led by former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson whose 71 points lead all NHL defensemen. Forwards Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris have also had strong campaigns and figure to draw the attention of the Islanders.  (Photo credit: Bobfina72/flickr).

Expect the Islanders to dress ten rookies again Tuesday night. Ryan Strome has led the Bridgeport-contingent lately with 7 points in his last 10 games and appears to have gained his confidence in the process. He, Colin MacDonald, and Matt Martin have been the team’s most effective line over this recent stretch of good play.

While Strome’s play has improved recently, the same cannot be said for rookie Anders Lee. Lee, who started his season with 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) in his first 8 games, has struggled crossing the finish line of the season, notching only 2 assists in his last 10 games played. A shuffling of lines may be able to get the rookie going again.

Forwards Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner figure to miss the game again for the Islanders. It will be Okposo’s seventh consecutive game missed due to injury.

While there are a lot of new faces up front, the biggest challenge for the Islanders on Tuesday will be how the blue line containing three rookies holds up against Ottawa. Matt Donovan and Kevin Czuczman have displayed some flashes lately joining the offensive rush and Scott Mayfield figures to get more acclimated and comfortable with the NHL game this last week of the season. They will make mistakes, but the hope is that their natural ability will be able to cover up for some of their rookie lapses.

Anders Nilsson got the start in Columbus where he let up 4 goals on 33 shots on net. The safe bet is that Evgeni Nabakov will get the nod Tuesday. Nabakov was last in net Saturday and picked up the shootout loss against the Capitals. A win would push Nabakov’s record above the NHL’s version of .500. (Photo credit: tyler chillemi/flickr).

Let’s hope that this will be the last time for a long while that the home schedule ends so soon.

EDIT--Various outlets reported Tuesday morning that Anders Nilsson will get the start, not Evgeni Nabakov.

Follow me on Twitter @mikepac23 and don’t forget to follow @TCLIsles for Islander news and discussion.